No, Today’s Virginia Election is NOT a Referendum on Trump
(Unless The Democrats Lose)
While cable news waits for the results of today’s off-year gubernatorial election in Virginia you’ll hear plenty of smart-set pundits from Manhattan and D.C. telling you (quite confidently) that this election has huge ramifications for President Donald Trump’s reelection prospects in 2020.
You know who I’m referring to… these are the same pundits and smart-setters who told you just as confidently that there would never BE a “President Trump” and Hillary Clinton was going to win the presidency and carry the senate with her pantsuit’s coattails.
Now, if you didn’t already learn a valuable lesson one year ago this week when all of these pundits were proven to be full of political guano, let me cut to the chase: These people get paid extraordinary sums of money to espouse their own wishful thinking shrouded in the electronic cloak of “analysis.” That’s right they’re Analysts… at least, that’s what it says on the chyron under these peoples’ names while they repeat the exact same thing every other Analyst says on every cable station at the exact same time.
So this afternoon and tonight they’ll all put on their pancake make-up, joke with each other in the green room and then hit their mark when the red light goes on and say the same thing again: “This Virginia election is a bellwether for the 2020 presidential campaign!” (Take a shot every time you hear “Bellwether”… you’ll be sloshed by the time Steve Kornacki explains the exit polls on MSNBC while Ana Navarro shouts down a Trump supporter on CNN (are there any Trump supporters left on CNN at this point?)
Here’s the thing: They’re full of crap.
In 2009, one year after Barack Obama won the presidency, Virginia elected Republican Bob McDonnell. At the time, when McDonnell won, we were told by the smart-set that this was a “Bellwether” for the 2012 election. Three years later Obama won reelection in a cake walk and he won Virginia along the way.
In 2013 Democrat Terry McAuliffe, a long-time Clinton ally, won the statehouse. Once again we were assured that this “Bellwether” moment was a sure sign Hillary would win in 2016. Yes, she won Virginia, but, well, you know… the Russians!
How many times must the Virginia off-year gubernatorial election have pretty much nothing to do with the next presidential election before TV analysts stop claiming the two are inextricably connected?
Let’s face it, Ed Gillespie, the Republican nominee, has more to do with Evan McMullin than he has to do with Donald Trump. I don’t mean that as a criticism (or a compliment) it’s just a fact. His policies are normative, establishment Republican-type initiatives. He has not campaigned with the president. And Trump’s endorsement has been limited to a couple of tweets.
He just hasn’t criticized or condemned Trump as one of the four horsemen of the apocalypse. So, obviously, the media and the Democrats have painted him as Trump reincarnate.
In fact, the only people focusing on Trump is the Democratic Party’s nominee, Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam and his surrogates.
Wait a second… I’ve changed my mind. Today’s Virginia election is a bellwether for national political trends, but only if the Democrats lose.
Think about it: The Commonwealth of Virginia has elected a Democrat in every single state-wide election in the past seven years. That includes two US Senate races, two presidential elections, and a Governor’s, Lt. Governor’s and Attorney General’s race. Virginia, by every definition, is a blue state. If Gillespie can win in Virginia, a blue state, just one year after the state voted for a Democrat for president… well… that really says something, doesn’t it?
If the Democrats win, well, that’s hardly a bellwether for Trump in 2020. He lost in Virginia last time around and still won the White House. (Hey, didn’t all those brilliant analysts tell us he couldn’t win the presidency without Virginia?) What’s the big headline if another Republican loses in Virginia after an eight year trend? That’s a “Dog Bites Man” story if there ever was one.
Since the entire campaign strategy for the Democrats has been to run against Trump and try to link their Republican opponent with the president, if that fails, then there surely is a lesson to learn going forward for national politics: Not everything in our country or culture is a direct reflection of Donald Trump. The sooner the Democrats (and the media) realize this, the better they’ll be. So please, let’s keep this just between us.
Larry O’Connor is a Contributing Editor at Mediaite and hosts a daily, talk radio show on WMAL in Washington DC
This is an opinion piece. The views expressed in this article are those of just the author.