If the 2017 election is a sign of things to come, the Republican Party is basically staring into the abyss.
While it wasn't surprising that Ed Gillespie lost to Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam in what was easily the most hard-fought race of the election season, it certainly doesn't bode well for moderate establishment Republicans, who attempted to ride the Trump wave to victory.
Tuesday night's victory is a referendum on President Trump and his agenda. The demographics in the Commonwealth of Virginia haven't changed much since the 2016 election where former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton won by a 5 point margin. Northam won by at least 8 points. So, the only major change is the attitude voters have for the current occupant of the Oval Office.
According to a Washington Post/Edison Media Research exit poll, 57 percent of the Virginia electorate disapprove of Trump's handling of his job. Northam won 87 percent of that vote. Meanwhile, 40 percent of the electorate approve of Trump's job performance, and Gillespie carried 91 percent of that vote. However, nearly half of the Virginia electorate said that Trump was not a factor in their vote on Tuesday.
In New Jersey, it was expected that Philip Murphy, a Democrat, would easily defeat Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno. However, after the 2016 election, nothing expected should ever be assumed. Guadagno served under incumbent Gov. Chris Christie, who currently holds a 15 percent approval rating, which is the lowest job approval rating of any governor in the country. Christie has been close to Trump ever since he endorsed him in March 2016. A rebuke against Christie's second-in-command is a rebuke against Trump.
However, what was not expected was the pendulum swinging to the left in the Virginia House of Delegates. Out of 100 seats in the Commonwealth's lower house, Democrats gained 13 seats (so far) and currently hold a 47 to 46 seat lead on the Republicans. Votes are still being tallied in seven delegate races that are still too close to call.
Tuesday night's results are eerily reminiscent of the referendum against another president who was the center of attention of his own party, former President Barack Obama.
While Obama won two terms as president, Democrats lost 1,042 seats at the state and federal level, including president (i.e. Hillary Clinton), congressional, governorships, and state legislatures. Prior to the 2016 election, the Democrats lost 910 seats in state legislatures throughout the country under Obama. In 2010, Democrats lost the House of Representatives following the passage of the Affordable Care Act, and in 2014, they lost the Senate.
Even though Trump and Obama could not be more different on the political spectrum, they are two sides of the same coin in how they market their respective brands and personalities to the public in the hopes that they always remain relevant. And it works.
Unfortunately, their parties are suffering, and Republicans are going to experience the brunt of it now. Democrats may not have a central hopeful message that resonates with voters, but they can ride the wave of anti-Trumpism that they so desperately needed in 2016.