The media will overplay how much Trump factored into the Virginia gubernatorial election and the GOP will underplay it. The reality though is that one-third of voters in Virginia cast a vote as a protest against Trump and only seventeen percent cast a vote as a way of signaling support for Trump. So yes, true, the largest portion of voters said Trump did not matter, but in close elections with tight margins, energy wins. The energy is decidedly against Trump.
Like the Republican wave that hit Virginia in 2009 after Barack Obama’s election, the Democrats have ridden a wave in Virginia after Trump.
In 2018, the GOP will not have the electoral college to save them. Elections will be by popular vote and the popular winds have shifted against the President. Democrats may be hated, but so is the GOP. And the President is particularly disliked.
The GOP is in an awkward, awful problem. If they side with Trump they will alienate others. If they reject Trump, they will alienate Trump’s base. Virginia, if nothing else, suggests the GOP is in a no win situation and the House is decidedly in play.
Ed Gillespie is a moderate Republican who ran as a Trump loyalist. Objectively, that hurt him. The exit polling bears that out. And immediately after the race, Trump loyalists threw him under the bus as having not run sufficiently Trumpian. Heck, Trump himself claimed that. There is no honor among thieves and no honor in the GOP at this point. Gillespie should have remembered that all politics is local and run a locals only campaign. Instead, he ran as mini-Trump with the Trump culture war issues and it did not play well. He turned off more people than he gained. But, again, had he done the opposite, he would have lost Trump’s base.
The GOP really is in a no win situation.
Donald Trump could easily win re-election in 2020. But like Barack Obama, Trump’s base turns out for him and not for the GOP. The GOP has provided no reason for anyone to vote for them and Donald Trump has provided the left ample reasons to turn out. Democrats are motivated and the GOP keeps choking on offering up any ideas.
It looks like it is getting close to time to turn out the lights on the GOP. But, before anyone writes the party obituary or plans the Democratic wave for 2018, we should also note that the GOP has a financial advantage and the Democrats do risk overplaying their hand in the culture war, providing ammunition to the GOP. The odds, though, are in the Democrats favor and should they capture the Senate they may very well put the Supreme Court out of reach for a generation unless a vacancy happens in the next year. After all, the GOP set the precedent of not holding hearings on a Supreme Court nominee. The Democrats could do the same till 2021 if a vacancy happens. But I suspect Virginia is a signal to Anthony Kennedy that he can probably wait out Trump. If so, there is a real irony here that Christians flocked to Trump to save the Court and may have lost it intend last night in Virginia.