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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...
A tweet previously embedded here has been deleted or was tweeted from an account that has been suspended or deleted.

Go deeper

Updated 3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

House cancels Thursday session as FBI, Homeland Security warn of threat to Capitol

Photo: Eric Baradat/AFP via Getty Images

The FBI and Department of Homeland Security predict violent domestic extremists attacks will increase in 2021, according to a report obtained by Axios.

Driving the news: The joint report says extremists have discussed plans to take control of the Capitol and "remove Democratic lawmakers" on or about March 4. The House canceled its plans for Thursday votes as word of the possible threats spread.

3 hours ago - World

Pope Francis set to make first papal visit to Iraq amid possible turmoil

Data: Vatican News; Map: Danielle Alberti/Axios

Pope Francis is forging ahead with the first papal trip to Iraq despite new coronavirus outbreaks and fears of instability.

The big picture: The March 5–8 visit is intended to reassure Christians in Iraq who were violently persecuted under the Islamic State. Francis also hopes to further ties with Shiite Muslims, AP notes.

"Neanderthal thinking": Biden slams states lifting mask mandates

States that are relaxing coronavirus restrictions are making "a big mistake," President Biden told reporters on Wednesday, adding: "The last thing we need is Neanderthal thinking."

Driving the news: Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) said Wednesday he will end all coronavirus restrictions via executive order, although some businesses are continuing to ask patrons to wear face masks. Mississippi is lifting its mask mandate for all counties Wednesday, per Gov. Tate Reeves (R).