Voters delivered Democrats their first rebuke of President Trump at the ballot box during his presidency. Before Tuesday night, Democrats had shrunk the margins in multiple special elections but came up short. Tuesday’s results will give what were nervous Democrats some much-needed confidence.
by DOMENICO MONTANARO
(NPR) – Democrats won up and down the ballot Tuesday night, notably in the governors’ races in Virginia and New Jersey. The victories were a much-needed sigh of relief for a party that hadn’t had any high-profile victories at the ballot box during the first year of the Trump presidency — despite his record-low approval ratings.
Here are seven takeaways from what happened Tuesday and what it means:
1. The resistance can win. Voters delivered Democrats their first rebuke of President Trump at the ballot box during his presidency. Before Tuesday night, Democrats had shrunk the margins in multiple special elections but came up short. Tuesday’s results will give what were nervous Democrats some much-needed confidence.
2. Trumpism has its limits. Democrats were able to hold the line and made inroads in suburban areas rich with professionals and those with college degrees. Tuesday’s results will be a big warning sign for any elected Republican in a Democratic or moderate-leaning state or district. Both governors’ races were rife with incendiary ads hitting on cultural issues and crime.
Despite Trump’s warning that Republican Ed Gillespie didn’t hew closely enough to Trumpism, the president was unpopular at the ballot box.
Ed Gillespie worked hard but did not embrace me or what I stand for. Don’t forget, Republicans won 4 out of 4 House seats, and with the economy doing record numbers, we will continue to win, even bigger than before!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 8, 2017
Almost 6 in 10 Virginia voters said they disapproved of the job Trump was doing (57 percent), according to exit polls, and twice as many people said they were motivated to go to the polls to reject him than those motivated to support him.
“I do believe that this is a referendum on this administration,” Republican U.S. Rep. Scott Taylor of the swing Virginia Beach area told The New York Times. He blamed Trump’s “divisive rhetoric” for the sweeping losses statewide.
Democrat Ralph Northam won by 9 points, the widest victory for a Democrat in the governor’s race since Gerald Baliles won by 11 points in 1985, when the state was very different.
Watch for elected Republicans in these kinds of areas to give a second thought to using the kinds of Trumpian tactics that Gillespie, and to an extent Republicans in New Jersey, used. Remember: Trump lost Virginia and New Jersey, so being more like Trump in those areas doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.
3. A shifting of old political lines continues. Democrats upped their margins in Northern Virginia and formerly swing suburban counties. Meanwhile, Democrats continued their slide in rural, western Virginia.
A drop of rain on Dems' parade: 2017 was 1st year in modern history a VA Dem gubernatorial nominee failed to carry a single precinct west of Redford.
Buchanan Co.'s Fox precinct, an old UMWA stronghold, was final Dem outpost to fall: it went Gillespie, 53 votes to 47 votes.
— Dave Wasserman (@Redistrict) November 8, 2017
4. Progressive platform gets a boost. Danica Roem in Virginia became the first openly transgender person elected to a statehouse in the country. And the 33-year-old did so over 13-term incumbent Bob Marshall, who authored Virginia’s “bathroom bill” and considers himself the state’s “chief homophobe.” What’s more, the election took place in Prince William County, which George W. Bush won by 7 points in the 2004 presidential election, but Hillary Clinton won by 21 points in 2016.
Chris Hurst, the boyfriend of a reporter shot and killed on live TV, won a seat to the Statehouse in Virginia on a gun-control platform over three-term NRA-backed incumbent Joseph Yost.