The Virginia election will send analysts and candidates scurrying to fine tune their messages and expectations for 2018. Let’s look at 15 of them:
1. Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe was able to hand over the governorship to a fellow Democrat, governor-elect Ralph Northam. McAuliffe’s approval rating in exit polls was 14 points higher than President Trump’s. McAuliffe surely will be considering a 2020 presidential run. As a major fundraiser he will suck up a lot of support and money from other potential moderate candidates. It’s far from clear Democrats would want as their presidential nominee the pol most closely associated with Hillary Clinton.
2. Democrats can do well in middle-class and affluent suburbs. They can do really well running against Trump. Northam won by huge margins in Loudon (20 points), Fairfax (more than 35 percent) and Arlington (78 to 20 percent) counties. These professional and college-educated voters, rather than non-college educated white working class voters, may be the key to Democrats winning back the House majority in 2018.
3. The huge turnout and sweep, including a raft of delegate wins (as many as 16, with recounts surely to come), bodes extremely well for Democrats in House seats, especially the Virginia 10th District, currently held by Rep. Barbara Comstock (R).
5. Voting against Trump (who had only a 40 percent approval according to exit polls) and his agenda became a whole lot easier for endangered Republican incumbents. That will have consequences on everything from their votes on taxes to the budget to DACA. It was a very good election night for Medicaid. Maine overwhelmingly passed a referendum to expand Medicaid. The Democrats, with wins in all statewide races and possibly a tie in the House of Delegates, may finally expand Medicaid in Virginia.
6. Northam’s win was in large part due to college educated white women (57-42 percent) and married women (56-43) as well as millennials (67-32 percent). These groups may be key to dislodging Republicans a year from now if the anti-Trump sentiment remains high.
7. We might stop calling Virginia a swing or purple state. Northam will be the fourth Democrat in the past five Virginia governors. Both U.S. senators are Democrats. Hillary Clinton notched the third consecutive presidential win for Democrats. Maybe it’s just a blue state, plain and simple — at least when Democrats turn out their voters.
8. Northam ran ahead of Clinton, who won the state by about 5 points. It’s one more indication that Clinton was simply not able to generate the kind of enthusiasm Democrats now need to defeat Trumpists.
9. Northam was boring, but normal and well-qualified. There will be a lot of boring, normal and well-qualified Democrats who think their ship has come in. They can run as anti-Trumpists and against know-nothingism.
10. Keep an eye on lieutenant governor-elect Justin Fairfax, a dynamic and smart African American, who beat far-right Republican Jill Vogel.
11. President Barack Obama is still valuable to Democrats in a way Trump certainly cannot be for Republicans. Obama came into the state, giving Northam a boost late in the race. He cannot be helpful everywhere, but in key races he could help flip some seats in 2018.
12. Virginia is not a crime-ridden, economic disaster as Trump claimed. The state’s unemployment rate (3.7 percent) and low crime (third lowest rate of violent crime in the country) are evidence of good governance, which turns out to be a pretty effective way to keep power.
13. Tax cuts are a dud. Gillespie ran strongly on a 10 percent tax cut in a state in which health care was by far the top issue. In those blue D.C. suburbs and exurbs voters want responsible government and good services more than a small cut in already-low state taxes. National Republicans should take note.
14. Tom Perriello, who lost the Democratic primary to Northam, earned a ton of goodwill in his party. Instead of moping, he worked extremely hard for Northam, helping to turn out a big liberal vote (28 percent of the electorate).
15. There is a price to be paid for race-baiting and xenophobia. If there was a single motivator to get Democrats out to vote (or to turn Republicans away from Gillespie) it was Gillespie’s infamous ad demonizing Hispanics and whipping up hysteria about sanctuary cities. Perhaps Republicans in Congress will remember this when deciding how to vote on a DACA fix.