In a disappointing but hardly surprising result, Ed Gillespie got crushed running for governor in Virginia on a night where the Trump gains were put to an end and the Democrats strengthened their hold on blue states. Here are six lessons from last night that can be applied to the future.
Virginia is a Blue State
Trump didn’t win Virginia, nor did Romney. Virginia hasn’t swung Republican in a Presidential election since 2004. Therefore, the Democrats really only won in already blue states. They can claim Virginia is a battleground state but it hasn’t swung in 13 years. Much has changed in Virginia since then. I’m going to give Laura Ingram credit on her spot on assessment.
Virginia is a blue state now for two reasons: 1.) mass immigration (legal & illegal) and 2.) massive, growing dependence on Big Gov't.
— Laura Ingraham (@IngrahamAngle) November 8, 2017
Virginia is becoming Maryland 2.0. If Republicans ever want to win in Virginia, they are going to have to shrink the Federal government. Northern Virginia is heavily Democratic for that reason. Part of this fault lies in the pre-Trump Establishment which beyond a doubt withheld support from Ken Cuccinelli. Certainly, if they had embraced him then, the Democrat takeover of Virginia could have been thwarted or at very least forestalled. Instead, Gillespie is in some ways a victim of this failure, and likely a contributor to it.
Polling still inaccurate
If this were a game and the polls were a spread, the final RCP Average showed Northam ahead by 3.3%. Northam doubled the spread and then some winning by 8.9%. This removes any chance for Gillespie apologist to claim he did a decent job. This is a failure by all measures for him. Ralph Northam exceeded his projection beyond the margin of error of the most recent polls.
Be Yourself, Be Local
Let’s be real, Ed Gillespie is merely a mainstream republican who bent the knee to Trump and joined the Establishment. He’s no fiery Trump supporter. Gillespie was a former RNC Chairman. And as far as Trumpism goes, he’s a phony. Instead of being down to earth and local to the voters, he focused on national issues, making it a referendum about Trump. he copied Trump’s language with “law and order” and other issues. He highlighted illegal immigration in a non-border state. This is the most pressing point if conservatives want to win in 2018. Folks like Paul Nehlen, Paul Ryan Challenger, need to be themselves and not Trump. Lay off the MAGA and focus on being local, sincere, and human. Candidates need to focus on themselves and their opponents, at least or especially if, their party’s president is unpopular. The problem in Gillespie’s case was he has no record to run on or worth bringing up.
Campaigns Need Winners
Ed Gillespie has never held an elected office before. He was a lobbyist before rising the Republican ranks. As Chairman of the RNC, Gillespie in 2004 was the first GOP chairman in 80 years to preside over a party that won the White House, House of Representatives and U.S. Senate. Pretty good resume a decade ago. But I find election losses to be a red flag on any candidate’s resume. Mitt Romney lost a senate race in Massachusetts. Carly Fiorina squandered a senate race in California. Hillary lost to Obama. Past election failures, to me, are an indication of future election failures. Gillispie narrowly lost the Senate campaign in 2014, the year the GOP took the Senate and governorship neighboring Maryland. To many Republicans, he lost a winnable race. Virginian conservatives lay blame on his establishment record and uninspiring campaign. Despite losing, Ed Gillespie was looking to build on that momentum. A lot of candidates are looking for rebounds, like Roy Moore. However hindsight shows this may have been a (another) mistake.
Trump took an L
Trump can claim all he want that Ed Gillespie distanced himself and didn’t take Party Boss Steven Bannon’s help, but he’d be wrong. Gillespie used a Trump style campaign in a state where Trump lost. In doing so, he made the race not about him but about Trump. Liberals put everything they got into the race because of how much they hate him. Trump comes out losing in Virginia, not because a Republican lost but because the race was about him. This should be a massive wakeup call for Republicans deep in the blue.
Outside factors are impactful
No doubt Sutherland Springs played some role as the media continually presses for gun control. Guns and healthcare were two top issues for Democrats on Tuesday. Other uncontrollable factors include bad weather. Some studies show this has a small effect. A cold rainy day doesn’t quite encourage voters to vote for incumbents. Since Trump is the incumbent in a race about him, general unhappiness recent events and bad weather conditions did not work in favor of Ed Gillespie.