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For GOP, the Perils of 'Trumpism Without Trump'

Democrats have a great night in Virginia and elsewhere
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 8, 2017 10:05 AM CST
For GOP, the Perils of 'Trumpism Without Trump'
"I Voted" stickers are seen at a polling place in Alexandria, Va.   (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

(Newser) – The dust is settled on Tuesday night's election results, and most pundits are declaring them worthy of a big celebration for Democrats. The big win, of course, came in Virginia, where Ralph Northam fended off Ed Gillespie in the governor's race, though there's disagreement on how much that should be read as a rebuke of President Trump. Here's a look at some of the sentiments out there:

  • Fear for the GOP: In the New York Times, Frank Bruni sees the results in Virginia as a clear repudiation of Trump and a sign that "Trump antipathy" is not only real but on the rise. "Just when we needed a sign that his America is not all of America, Virginia came to the rescue and gave us a vivid one," writes Bruni, referring to the president. "And I guarantee you that the Republicans up for re-election in 2018 saw it, shuddered and will spend the next weeks and months trying to figure out just how much trouble their party is in and precisely how to repair it."
  • Hold those predictions: Any pundit who uses Tuesday night's results to predict a Democratic surge in the 2018 election needs to have their credentials checked, writes Mollie Hemingway at the Federalist. Yes, Democrats had a good night, but those 2018 races are just too far away. As for the GOP, the takeaway is clear: Start fulfilling promises on tax reform and ObamaCare.

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  • Eyes on the House: Tuesday's "really good night" for Democrats from coast to coast was actually in line with how things should have played out given Trump's low approval rating of 38%, writes Nate Silver at FiveThirtyEight.com. So will Democrats take the House next year? "I'd say they're favorites, but not particularly heavy ones."
  • Not a true Trumpian? Coverage in Breitbart under Steve Bannon refers to Gillespie as an "establishment Republican tactician" who is "milquetoast and uninspiring." And a headline calls him a "Republican swamp thing." Gillespie took up the cause of immigration only when down in the polls and rebuffed Bannon's invitations of help, according to the story.
  • Trumpism, sans Trump: Gillespie embraced Trumpism by delving into the culture wars, a tactic that improved his standing in the polls but ultimately wasn't enough. "It's impossible to know what would have worked best: embracing Trump even more, or running a more moderate and less inflammatory campaign," writes Daniel Bush at PBS. "But one thing is clear: Gillespie's attempt to split the difference failed." A New York Times analysis by Michael Tackett has a similar take, with a headline of "Trumpism Without Trump: A Losing Formula in Swing-State Virginia."

  • Blow to president: President Trump may have distanced himself from Gillespie after the loss, but "make no mistake," writes Dana Milbank in the Washington Post, the president was on the ballot, and he lost. Gillespie campaigned as a "Trump clone" and lost by a surprisingly large margin. Trump said Gillespie didn't "embrace" him, but the opposite is true, writes Milbank. "The problem was precisely Gillespie's embrace" of Trump.
  • Centrism wins: At Fox News, Douglas Schoen writes that Northam won because he ran largely as a moderate on social and economic issues. "For the Democrats in particular, it is now time to embrace alternatives and centrism in the style of Ralph Northam," writes Schoen. "Otherwise, the party will struggle to build on these first steps toward regaining power."
  • McAuliffe 2020? Eric Bradner of CNN says another big winner Tuesday was outgoing Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe. He seems "impossible to ignore" now as a possible 2020 Democratic presidential candidate, and his speech Tuesday boasting of his efforts to protect LGBT workers had the feel of a campaign message.
(Read more Election Day stories.)

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