Donald Trump may be the only person in the world who didn’t interpret the landslide results of Virginia’s election yesterday as a repudiation of him and his policies. “Ed Gillespie worked hard but did not embrace me or what I stand for,” the president tweeted in response to election returns showing that Democrats swept the races for statewide office and made spectacular gains in the Republican-dominated House of Delegates.
But according to exit polls cited in Politico, half of Virginia voters said that expressing approval or disapproval of Trump factored into their vote. Thirty-four percent voted to oppose him compared to 17% who voted to support him. Governor-elect Ralph Northam ran especially well among a key swing group, white women with a college degree, winning the demographic by a 16-point margin, 58% to 42%. Hillary Clinton won it by only 6 points in the presidential election last year.
The statistics back up observations from my social milieu in western Henrico County. My Democratic friends were enraged by Trump’s election, whom they never imagined would actually win in 2016, and they mobilized to support the “resistance,” joining marches, contributing money, and soliciting candidates to run in local races. The level of intensity, formidable after Trump’s election, was reinforced by the backlash against the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville. By contrast, my suburban Republican friends were apologetic, defensive, and dispirited by Trump.
Trump has said that an improving economy will dampen the electoral wildfires, and it might. The respite from eight years of Obama-era over-regulation seem to be giving the economy a little extra oomph. However, in my observation the anti-Trump furies are not close to burning themselves out. Virginia’s election results likely foreshadow a Democratic wave in the national elections next year.
Trump did not factor into my vote. The election was for state and local offices, not a referendum on the president. But then, I’m pretty clearly out of sync with majority opinion in Virginia.