Exit polls indicated that resistance to President Trump was a large factor in the Democrat landslide.
Politico reports that half of Virginia voters said that their vote was about Trump. Thirty-four percent of Virginia voters said they were voting to oppose Trump while 17 percent were voting to support the president.
Forty-seven percent of Virginia voters strongly disapproved of President Trump and Democrat Ralph Northam won 95 percent of those voters. Starting with a disadvantage of almost half of the electorate meant that Republican Ed Gillespie needed almost unanimous support among other groups. He did not find it, however, losing 53-45 percent.
In New Jersey, where the outgoing governor is the unpopular Republican Chris Christie, 28 percent of voters said that their vote was against the president, whose approval rating in the state is at 36 percent. Only 11 percent were voting in support of Donald Trump. Democrat Phil Murphy carried the governor’s race over Republican Kim Guadagno by 55-42 percent.
Politico notes that Gillespie and Guadagno both won the segment of the electorate that said that President Trump was not a factor. However, the margins (15 points for Gillespie and six points for Guadagno) were not enough to overcome the strong anti-Trump bloc.
To cap off the Democrat victory in the Virginia gubernatorial race, the party also picked up at least 13 seats in Virginia’s House of Delegates. The landslide is the largest in more than 100 years and includes a trans woman (i.e. a man) and a former newscaster whose girlfriend was murdered on live television in 2015.
New Jersey is deep blue and Virginia is bluish purple these days, so Republicans may try to write off these losses to traditional voting patterns. That does not explain the loss of two seats in Georgia’sstate House of Representatives, however. The two seats were in districts near Athens and have historically been solidly Republican.
The biggest takeaway from the elections is that President Trump has no coattails. Trump won because of Hillary Clinton’s unpopularity and lacks a mandate for his agenda. After starting with a popular vote defeat, Trump’s behavior while in office has caused support for his presidency and the Republican Party to erode.
Republican candidates in 2018 are between a rock and a hard place. Trump’s strong support in the GOP makes it difficult to distance themselves from the unpopular president. On the other hand, if they don’t move away from Trump, they face the possibility of losses in the general election.