"Gillespie’s wavering support for the President resulted in depressed turnout among Republicans, which led to disappointing down-ballot results," the White House wrote in talking points distributed to allies the morning after Gillespie suffered a 9-point loss in the Virginia race.
"Case-in-point: If the Gillespie campaign embraced the President anywhere, it was in [Southwest] Virginia. And, look what happened: [Southwest] Virginia significantly over-performed for Republicans relative to 2013. There's a lesson to be learned here," said the White House in its talking points, a copy of which was obtained by the Washington Examiner.
Trump himself took to Twitter on Wednesday to cast Gillespie's campaign as insufficiently committed to his agenda, noting Gillespie "did not embrace me or what I stand for" during the hard-fought governor's race.
And a person familiar with the president's political operation told reporters on Wednesday that "local dynamics" and "history" prevented Gillespie and another GOP gubernatorial candidate, Kim Guadagno in New Jersey, from prevailing in Tuesday night's elections.
Trump never campaigned with Gillespie in Virginia, although he did offer words of support via social media and recorded a robocall. Polls had shown the race to be tight in the days before voters cast their ballots, but Gillespie's margin of defeat to Democrat Ralph Northam was larger than expected.
Many Democrats have pointed to the pair of gubernatorial victories as evidence that an anti-Trump wave could soon fuel more Democratic victories, while Republicans have argued that both Virginia and New Jersey tend to elect Democrats to statewide office and that historical trends accounted for Republican losses.