It was a rough night for the Republican Party, which not only lost the gubernatorial race in Virginia but also in New Jersey. The 2017 election night was more of a litmus test for Donald Trump’s presidency — and it failed, rather spectacularly.
Democrat financier Phil Murphy defeated Republican Kim Guadagno in New Jersey governor’s race, which was a big deal, given the state has a history of electing Republicans at the state level even though it overwhelmingly supported Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton during the 2016 presidential election.
Things worked quite well for liberals in Virginia as well, as they not only won the race for governor, lieutenant governor and state attorney general, but also made significant gains in the state's House of Delegates, unseating several longtime Republican incumbents.
Shortly after Ralph Northam came out on top of GOP operative Ed Gillespie in the Virginia gubernatorial race, Trump sent out a fiery (and a very long) tweet distancing himself from Gillespie — a candidate he had endorsed and implored people to vote for just hours before his crippling defeat.
Ed Gillespie worked hard but did not embrace me or what I stand for. Don’t forget, Republicans won 4 out of 4 House seats, and with the economy doing record numbers, we will continue to win, even bigger than before!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 8, 2017
In doing so, Trump once again proved he is loyal to no one: not his party, his political partners and definitely not the people who he thinks make him look weak.
Trump also seems to have forgotten that a) the federal races he is touting were in Republican-held districts where Democrats did see a significant gain compared to previous elections and b) Republicans actually won only four of five seats, as a race in California did not turn out in their favor.
Reminder: Trump tweeted a bunch for Gillespie, just recorded a robocall that went out today for Gillespie.— Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1) November 8, 2017
Trump before Ed Gillespie lost- He embraces what I stand for.— Tony Posnanski (@tonyposnanski) November 8, 2017
Trump after Ed Gillespie lost- He does not embrace what I stand for. pic.twitter.com/HloEf6gfTh
This is not the first time the commander-in-chief has criticized a candidate he formerly supported.
In September, after Trump’s pick for Alabama Senate race lost the state's Republican primary, Trump now only hinted he might have made a mistake, but also deleted the tweets endorsing the losing candidate as soon as the polls projected his defeat.
The president publicly supported Sen. Luther Strange. One of his now-deleted tweets read: “ALABAMA, get out and vote for Luther Strange - he has proven to me that he will never let you down! #MAGA" while another read, “Luther Strange has been shooting up in the Alabama polls since my endorsement. Finish the job - vote today for 'Big Luther.’”
However, he later congratulated Strange’s rival Roy Moore on his win.
Congratulations to Roy Moore on his Republican Primary win in Alabama. Luther Strange started way back & ran a good race. Roy, WIN in Dec!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 27, 2017
A number of people called Trump out for treating Gillespie, another candidate of his own party, the way he treated Strange.
Will Trump now pretend he didn’t support Gillespie, just like he did with Luther Strange?— Brian Klaas (@brianklaas) November 8, 2017
Trump, Stewart and Breitbart are all trying to erase the memory of Gillespie running on the hard-right “nationalist” race/immigration playbook.— Daniel Dale (@ddale8) November 8, 2017
Also, don't forget: not only did Trump campaign for Gillespie, so did @VP Mike Pence.— Hernandez Stroud (@StroudHernandez) November 8, 2017
While Gillespie’s campaign maintained its distance from Trump and never invited him to any of his campaign events — perhaps in hopes of not upsetting the voters and mobilizing the Democratic turnout — Gillespie nevertheless ran a very Trumpian campaign. He used race baiting and anti-immigrant rhetoric to stir up votes from the alt-right, even while attempting to appeal to moderate voters.
While the GOP can partly blame its historic loss on its own policies and on many of its former incumbents, who had been around for ages and did not expect Democrats to give them a serious fight, it mainly has Trump to hold responsible.
As the exit poll showed, Trump's approval rating in Virginia voters was just 42 percent. Of the 50 percent people who said Trump was a major factor in their vote, the majority claimed they wanted to send a message of opposition to Trump.
Thumbnail/Banner: Reuters, Jonathan Ernst