Nov 8, 2017

Election night roundup: the Democratic wave in Virginia

Northam. AP photo

Democrat Ralph Northam has defeated Republican Ed Gillespie by a 9 point margin to become Virginia's next governor. About half an hour after the race was called, President Trump tweeted that Gillespie "didn't embrace me or what I stand for."

Why it matters: The race inflamed tensions over immigration and crime with brutal negative ads, and was seen as a preview of how the "Trump question" would loom over elections in 2018. If Northam had lost there would have been panic and introspection within the Democratic Party. Now, the Dems have notched their first big win of the Trump era.

What to watch: Democrats won all 3 statewide races and are surging in the House of Delegates. The Dems could ultimately take a majority in that chamber, a completely unforeseen outcome.

Smart takes...

  • Larry Sabato, Director of the University of Virginia's Center for Politics, says tonight's results establish Virginia as a blue state: "Goodbye, purple."
  • Nate Cohn of the Upshot: "By any measure other than Trump, Gillespie did great in white, rural, western Virginia. He was annihilated in the suburbs."
  • Ryan Struyk of CNN points out that "Northam doubled Clinton margin among white college-educated women."
  • Dave Wasserman of the Cook political report on the results across Virginia: "This is a tidal wave."
Two notable VA winners
  1. Danica Roem became the first transgender person to win elected office in Virginia, beating a man who once referred to himself as Virginia's "chief homophobe."
  2. Chris Hurst was elected to the House of Delegates two years after his girlfriend Alison Parker was murdered during a live TV broadcast. Hurst said he was running to honor her legacy.
Other noteworthy results
A playbook for 2018?

Shortly after the election was called, David Turner, Northam's communication director told Axios' Shannon Vavra he hopes the win provides a playbook for "how to deal with Trump." His advice:

  • "Attach [Trump] policies to the candidate," as Northam did on clean air and water issues and education, for example.
  • Get out a strong ground game. Turner cited stats showing Northam's was "an organization that was ready to turn out and it clearly worked," Turner said.
  • Turner emphasized if Dems attack the other candidate on a personal level, that's less effective than doing so on issues.
  • For GOP hopefuls in the 2018 election cycle, "I think Republicans are going to have to think long and hard about this tax bet," Turner said. He thinks the GOP tax plan is "just like Trumpcare" and puts Republicans on a "dangerous" electoral footing.
One eye-catching quote...

"I do believe that this is a referendum on this administration" and Trump should do some "self-reflection." That's from Congressman Scott Taylor, a Virginia Republican (h/t Alex Burns, NYT)

One thing to watch...
Go deeper