The Slatest

Today in Conservative Media: What the Hell Happened Last Night?

Virginia Governor-elect Ralph Northam waves to supporters at an election night rally Tuesday in Fairfax.

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A daily roundup of the biggest stories in right-wing media.

Conservatives assessed a surprising slew of off-year election victories for Democrats on Wednesday. National Review’s Kevin Williamson surveyed the damage:

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.

The Resurgent’s David Thornton agreed. “The biggest takeaway from the elections is that President Trump has no coattails,” he wrote. “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.”

A number of articles focused on the GOP’s losses in Virginia. At Commentary, John Podhoretz said Democratic victories in the governor’s race and delegate elections constituted not a wave but a “tsunami.”  “If the Republican, Ed Gillespie, had prevailed in the race for VA governor, the general takeaway would have been that Democrats could not capitalize on Donald Trump’s parlous approval ratings and the general low repute in which the GOP is held and that it would now be time to panic,” he wrote. “A Democratic victory this commanding up and down the ticket says exactly the opposite. It says Republicans should panic. It says Democratic enthusiasm is through the roof. It says that pollsters trying to correct for 2016 surveys that undercounted Republican voters overrepresented them in the final weeks of the Virginia campaign and made it look like a race that was probably never close was close.”

The Daily Wire’s Joseph Curl wrote that the state should now be considered solid blue:

I started out as a young reporter covering politics in Prince William nearly 30 years ago. Back then, the bedroom community 35 miles outside of D.C. was solidly Republican. But over the years, it has morphed from bright red to pale purple to deep blue. The Democratic base in Northern Virginia has now expanded far into the suburbs, and the Post notes that “the area gave Northam a vote advantage of more than 260,000 votes, expanding the region’s dominance over the rest of the state.”

So there’s that. Turnout was also the highest in 20 years for a gubernatorial race, the Post says. Some will argue that Democrats were simply more motivated in Virginia on Election Day, but the bottom line is that the party now dominates in the commonwealth as never before.

The Federalist’s David Harsanyi agreed and dismissed Virginia’s significance. “Winning a blue state in what is by any historical standard a good environment for blue candidates is exceptionally normal,” he wrote. “The majority of the seats Republicans lost yesterday leaned Democrat or were competitive to begin with, and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ralph Northam ran a milquetoast, moderate campaign, even promising to work with the president. Hardly resistance-level stuff.”

The Daily Caller’s Scott Greer partly attributed Virginia’s results to demographics. “No matter who Republicans run or what the political climate is like, the party will have to reckon that it can only count on 67 percent of whites to turn out to vote in Old Dominion,” he argued. “Maybe they can do better among college-educated whites to get a closer race than the Tuesday’s drubbing, but that still wouldn’t have netted a win. No Republican has yet to figure out a message that can retain the base while winning over significant numbers of non-whites and a strong majority of college-educated whites.”

On Wednesday’s episode of Breitbart News Daily, Steve Bannon contended that Gillespie’s loss could have been averted with a fuller embrace of Trumpism:

Last night was a big wake-up call for folks that say hey, if you want to make sure we can execute on the Trump agenda and continue to have it as part of our public policy, you’re going to have to fight for this. That means you’re going to have to get out, you’re going to have to work the phones, you’re going to have to go through the neighborhood, ring the doorbells, and I think principally get candidates unlike Gillespie who really believe this in the marrow of their bones, and can convince people that it’s something they believe in, and then can sell it.