No, Virginia, the Election Was Not Anti-Trump
Jeffrey Lord
by

Good heavens.

The defeat of Ed Gillespie has Democrats and the liberal media exulting over a supposed rebuke to President Trump. Crowed the New York Times:

FAIRFAX, Va. — Voters delivered their first forceful rebuke of President Trump and his party on Tuesday night, with Democrats exploiting Mr. Trump’s deep unpopularity to capture the governorships in Virginia and New Jersey and make significant inroads into suburban communities that once favored the Republican Party.”

Um…. no.

Four years ago Virginia elected Clinton ally Terry McAuliffe as their Democratic governor. In 2016, without carrying Virginia, Donald Trump was elected president. In 2009, Republican Bob McDonnell was elected as the Republican governor. Three years later Mitt Romney lost both Virginia and the election to Barack Obama. In 2005, Democrat Tim Kaine was elected the Democratic governor, and three years later John McCain lost Virginia and the election to Barack Obama.

In other words? In other words Virginia — which also has two Democratic U.S. Senators, Kaine and Mark Warner (the latter also a former governor) — can more than safely be called a blue state. The overflow of the “Swamp” — all those bureaucrats and lobbyists that overwhelm Washington, D.C. has flooded Northern Virginia. And they voted, again, for a Democrat. Shocking. Not.

The assumption that this is somehow a “forceful rebuke” of the President is more than wishful thinking — it is whistling past the political graveyard that is filled with Democratic candidacies lost en masse in the Obama years. As noted here at Fox News in December of 2016:

Democrats lost over 1,000 seats under Obama

The story begins by noting:

President Obama claims he could have won a third term if he had been allowed to run — but even if he’s right, his coattails haven’t done much for the rest of his party.

While Obama’s tireless campaigning, broad demographic appeal and message of “hope” and “change” helped propel him to two terms in the White House, his skills on the stump haven’t translated down the ballot.

The Democratic Party suffered huge losses at every level during Obama’s West Wing tenure.

The grand total: a net loss of 1,042 state and federal Democratic posts, including congressional and state legislative seats, governorships and the presidency.

Not to mention the catastrophe that was Hillary Clinton’s campaign — a campaign that had Virginia’s Senator Kaine on the ticket as the vice-presidential candidate and still managed to lose neighboring North Carolina where Kaine supposedly would have had some appeal.

Ed Gillespie is a good guy, whom I know from the way back. But his attempt to “thread the needle” between the Trump and Establishment wings of the GOP arguably made his initial disadvantage of being the GOP nominee even worse. As Politico noted here:

Gillespie spent months trying to perform a balancing act. He emerged from the June primary deeply frustrated, after Trump supporters nearly powered Stewart to an upset victory. Gillespie vented about his political operation and even considered a staff shakeup. The former national party chairman sketched out several possible paths forward, including a full-on embrace of the president.

But Gillespie — who in 2006 penned an op-ed in which he warned the GOP against becoming an “anti-immigration party” — never felt truly comfortable running under the Trump banner, people close to the campaign said. So he adopted a moderated approach, airing commercials that spotlighted Trump-centric issues like MS-13 and the Confederate monuments, while avoiding attaching himself to the president personally.

Gillespie’s team deliberated extensively about whether to bring in Trump for a campaign event in conservative southwest Virginia. The candidate ended up having Vice President Mike Pence hold a campaign rally and fundraiser for him. Gillespie never made a hard ask for the commander in chief.

And in sum, right there is the problem for candidates tied immutably to the GOP Establishment. It is doubtless tiring for some to hear Ronald Reagan’s wisdom on this yet again, but as all the post-mortem clucking about the Virginia election proceeds, it is still worth repeating. Said to CPAC after the 1974 Watergate election defeat, Reagan said in part this, bold print for emphasis supplied:

Our people look for a cause to believe in. Is it a third party we need, or is it a new and revitalized second party, raising a banner of no pale pastels, but bold colors which make it unmistakably clear where we stand on all of the issues troubling the people?

Let us show that we stand for fiscal integrity and sound money and above all for an end to deficit spending, with ultimate retirement of the national debt.

Let us also include a permanent limit on the percentage of the people’s earnings government can take without their consent.

Let our banner proclaim a genuine tax reform that will begin by simplifying the income tax so that workers can compute their obligation without having to employ legal help.

And let it provide indexing — adjusting the brackets to the cost of living — so that an increase in salary merely to keep pace with inflation does not move the taxpayer into a surtax bracket. Failure to provide this means an increase in government’s share and would make the worker worse off than he was before he got the raise.

Let our banner proclaim our belief in a free market as the greatest provider for the people.

Let us also call for an end to the nit-picking, the harassment and over-regulation of business and industry which restricts expansion and our ability to compete in world markets.

Let us explore ways to ward off socialism, not by increasing government’s coercive power, but by increasing participation by the people in the ownership of our industrial machine.

Our banner must recognize the responsibility of government to protect the law-abiding, holding those who commit misdeeds personally accountable.

And we must make it plain to international adventurers that our love of peace stops short of “peace at any price.”

We will maintain whatever level of strength is necessary to preserve our free way of life.

A political party cannot be all things to all people. It must represent certain fundamental beliefs which must not be compromised to political expediency, or simply to swell its numbers.

I do not believe I have proposed anything that is contrary to what has been considered Republican principle. It is at the same time the very basis of conservatism. It is time to reassert that principle and raise it to full view. And if there are those who cannot subscribe to these principles, then let them go their way.

Alas, as that story about the Gillespie campaign in Politico made clear, the decision of the campaign was to ignore this Reagan wisdom and try and thread the needle between bold colors and pale pastels — which in the end always looks more pale than bold.

The other week President Trump was here in Central Pennsylvania. I was in the crowd. And it is more than safe to say the President was enthusiastically received. There was no disappointment, no lack of a crowd. There was only staunch support for a call to bold colors.

Which in turn answers the question of whether the President is getting rebuked as the Times and others in the liberal media are trying to insist.

The plain and simple truth is that a blue state that hasn’t voted Republican for president since 2004 and has managed to elect Democrats as governor in seven out of the last ten gubernatorial elections — is a blue state in terms of its statewide elections. It’s election of Ralph Northam is not a shock it is by now accepted politics. It has nothing — zero — to do with Donald Trump.

Not that the Washington Post and the New York Times will ever tell you that.

Jeffrey Lord
Jeffrey Lord
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Jeffrey Lord, a contributing editor to The American Spectator, is a former aide to Ronald Reagan and Jack Kemp. An author and former CNN commentator, he writes from Pennsylvania at jlpa1@aol.com. His new book, Swamp Wars: Donald Trump and The New American Populism vs. The Old Order, is now out from Bombardier Books.
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