After coast-to-coast victories Tuesday and a romp in a key swing state, Democrats smell blood in the water for a 2018 election that could deal a body blow to President Donald Trump and the GOP.
Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam’s (D) blowout victory in Virginia’s gubernatorial race — the biggest election since Trump’s victory one year ago today — was the capstone of an impressive night that showed Democrats’ burning hot hatred of Trump can translate into sweeping electoral victories across the country.
“It was a rejection of Donald Trump and his bigoted, hateful and divisive rhetoric,” Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) told reporters Tuesday night. “All Republicans are in trouble. Look at the sweep.”
He paused when TPM asked if he thought Democrats had a shot at retaking the U.S. Senate next year. Democrats haven’t seriously considered that possibility before last night, as they’re defending 10 seats in states Trump won.
“Now I do,” he said. “I think this changes the whole dynamic of electoral politics.”
Northam defeated former Republican National Committee Chairman Ed Gillespie by 9 points — a far larger spread than even the most optimistic Democrats predicted, more than the five-point win Hillary Clinton managed in the state and the widest margin for any Democratic gubernatorial candidate in decades.
His sweeping win was coupled with a Democratic sweep of statewide offices and huge gains by Democrats in the statehouse no one thought possible that have put the House of Delegates teetering on the edge of their control. Democrats have picked up at least 15 seats in the chamber, double the number most of them thought likely, and turned a two-to-one GOP edge in the chamber into a virtual tie. Control of the chamber hangs in the balance, with recounts still pending in some races.
But Virginia wasn’t the only state where Democrats were crushing their foes. The party won a state Senate seat in Washington long held by the GOP, giving them an edge in the chamber and unified control of the state government. New Jersey Gov.-elect Phil Murphy (D) beat his GOP opponent by double digits, flipping a gubernatorial seat to his party. Democrats won a mayoral race in Manchester, N.H., for the first time in more than a decade, won a statewide referendum in Maine to expand Medicaid, and picked up two deep red state senate seats in Georgia long held by Republicans. They also beat a Trump-aligned county executive in Westchester County, N.Y.
“You have sent a message across the globe to South Korea: Donald Trump, you don’t stand for our values! The America that Donald Trump comes back to in a few days is far different than the America he left. It’s an America where we are regaining our values,” an ebullient Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez declared from the stage at Northam’s victory rally.
Republicans are as alarmed as Democrats are delighted after a bruising election night in which Republicans got swept.
Republican Party of Virginia Chairman John Whitbeck told TPM Tuesday night that he was still getting his head around the GOP’s shellacking in the state.
“Six months is an eternity in politics, but boy, we’ve got a lot of work to do in Virginia,” he said. “It’s looking like the urban areas are just a huge problem for us and I don’t know what the answer is yet.”
Rep. Scott Taylor (R-VA) agreed, saying Trump and the Trump-like ads from Gillespie helped drive the results.
“Last night was a referendum. I don’t think there’s any way you can look at it any different way, to be honest with you,” he said on CNN Wednesday morning.
GOP strategist Ford O’Connell said he wasn’t surprised Northam won, but the lopsided numbers worried him.
“What surprised me was the margin — Gillespie got crushed in suburbs and with millennials,” he said. “Democrats are fired up and Republicans are facing some tough headwinds and how they try to hold on to House will vary from district to district.”
As Republicans fret, Democrats are gleefully looking ahead to next year.
“Based on the rejection we saw from voters tonight, one things is clear about President Trump for Republicans in 2018,” Democratic strategist Jesse Ferguson told TPM after midnight early Wednesday morning. “Can’t live with him and can’t live without him.”