by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
So, here’s the math: Ed Gillespie, the Republican candidate for governor of Virginia, won nine out of ten votes among Virginians who approve of President Donald Trump. He lost nine out of ten votes among those who disapprove. He lost by nine points.
Trump’s approval rating in Virginia is 42 percent. His approval rating nationally is lower than that — about 38 percent. Trump partisans like to sneer at opinion polling and proffer the cliché that the only poll that matters is the one on Election Day.
Virginia governor-elect Ralph Northam, a Democrat, surely agrees.
So must Maine Democrats, who won a Medicaid expansion through a ballot initiative Tuesday night. New Jersey Democrats won the governorship. Washington Democrats took control of the state senate, giving the Democratic party unified control of the entire West Coast. Democrats won elections in the Georgia state legislature, and mayor’s races in Fayetteville, Manchester, and St. Petersburg, where Rick Baker, one of the few Republicans who seems to get city politics, lost his race after a campaign focused on Trump and climate change.
We should not read too much into Tuesday night’s results. Neither should we read too little into them.
Because of the inflation of the American presidency, there often is a countercyclical partisan effect, usually felt in midterm congressional elections. Americans like to complain that Washington never gets anything done, and they have a marked preference for divided governments that help keep Washington from getting anything done. Trump is an unpopular figure, and an obnoxious one. He likes being the center of attention, which means that he is going to be a factor in the mayor’s race in St. Petersburg and the governor’s race in Virginia. If the American electorate continues to have a low opinion of him, then Republicans should calculate that drag into their electoral expectations.