Nonprofit, nonpartisan journalism. Supported by readers.


Trump crowd blames Ed Gillespie’s loss in Virginia on his not being Trumpy enough

REUTERS/Julia Rendleman
Ed Gillespie speaking to supporters after conceding the race to Ralph Northam on Tuesday evening.

Democrats would love to believe that their success in Tuesday’s elections reflects a turn in the momentum against the Trumpified Republican Party, but the Trumpies see it exactly the other way.

They are blaming Virginia Republican gubernatorial nominee Ed Gillespie for his 54-45 percent loss to Democrat Ralph Northam, and they are blaming Gillespie for not being Trumpy enough. As a Daily Beast piece this morning put it:

Shortly after the loss, President Donald Trump and his top allies began spinning the result as the result of Gillespie being insufficiently obedient to and appreciative of the Trump agenda.

Laura Ingraham, the Trump-adoring cable news host, accused Gillespie of playing “footsie with conservative populism” without fully embracing it. Breitbart called him a “Republican swamp thing.” A staffer for Corey Stewart, the conservative candidate who barely lost to Gillespie in the GOP primary, told Fox News that, “Gillespie didn’t speak to populist issues early enough in the campaign.”

In the coup-de-grace, Trump himself said Gillespie “worked hard but did not embrace me or what I stand for” just hours after he recorded an election-day robocall for the candidate and tweeted his support for his campaign.

Maybe they’re right but I doubt it, and it sounds like part of Trump’s self-obsession and the Trump obsession shared by his biggest backers.

The angry Trumpies don’t mention that Trump himself lost Virginia last year. Republicans have won only one out of the last five gubernatorial elections in Virginia. Virginia Republicans nominated Gillespie in a primary over a much Trumpier alternative, Corey Stewart, who had chaired Trump’s unsuccessful campaign in Virginia last year. So I guess that sets up the Trumpier Virginia Republicans to believe that if their guy had been the nominee, he would have won. Because why exactly?

To believe that Stewart would’ve done better against Northam, you have to believe one thing and ignore another. The thing you have to believe is that a lot of Virginia Trump supporters decided not to vote because Gillespie wasn’t Trumpy enough. The thing you have to ignore is that there are moderates, even moderate Republicans in Virginia (and every other state) that dislike Trump and might have been willing to support a mainstream Republican like Gillespie, but would have voted for the Democrat or not voted at all if the Republicans had nominated a strong Trump supporter like Stewart.

I’m sure there are people in both of these categories. I don’t claim to know which category is bigger. The Trumpies, including Laura Ingraham as quoted above, claim to know, and what they claim to know is self-serving and unprovable.

Gillespie actually went many steps down the road toward pandering to Trump supporters. He ran against immigrants as a threat to public safety. He made noises about the importance of leaving up monuments to Confederate heroes.

Maybe he could have embraced Trump more closely. Maybe he couldn’t stand to do so because he despises Trump and what Trump has done to his beloved GOP. (Did I mention that Gillespie was a former RNC chair and a big backer of George W. Bush? Bush has made little secret of his dislike of the Trump takeover of the party. It’s easy to believe that Gillespie shares that view.)  Maybe Gillespie kept his Trumpiness level down because he believed it would drive moderate voters to vote Democratic or stay home.

Perhaps this is slightly analogous to the argument made by some Bernie Sanders supporters that the Democrats would have won last fall if they had nominated Sanders – who might have excited some lefties to vote, but might have scared away some moderates — instead of Hillary Clinton, who probably did the opposite.

It’s possible, although it’s hard to remember, that not everything is about Trump. The Democrats nominated a particularly cheerful, likable, even somewhat grandfatherly gubernatorial candidate, in a state that has been trending bluer for several cycles. He won by a solid nine-point margin, bigger than the five points by which Clinton beat Trump in Virginia last year. Get over it. 

Comments (18)

  1. Submitted by Tom Christensen on 11/09/2017 - 09:13 am.

    That darn narcissism keeps getting in Trump’s way when it comes to evaluating anything. Trump is unable to accept the blame for anything because of his extreme narcissism. When it comes to self-evaluation many times Trump is forced to tell one of his many lies, because he is not able to tell the truth. That is why the news media is so hated by Trump because they frequently provide the truth, many times with a replay tape that is hard to refute.

    I think Gillespie lost because he was a former RNC chairman and GWB supporter and we all know what GWB did for the country. Gillespie is looked at as an establishment Republican. Gillespie was the wrong messenger with the wrong message. He is part of the swamp and people are fed up with the swamp.

  2. Submitted by Brian Simon on 11/09/2017 - 11:08 am.

    It’s Tradition

    You’d be hard pressed to find a losing candidate / campaign willing to concede they had the wrong message. Clinton blames the Russians. Sanders blames the Clintons & DNC. Gore blames the supreme court & Nader voters. Kerry blames the swiftboaters.

    To be sure, there’re grains of truth to all those allegations, but overall the real shortcomings were in the candidates, who didn’t appeal to enough voters.

  3. Submitted by Tim Smith on 11/09/2017 - 11:54 am.

    it’s a Blue State

    where a dem has won 4-5 Governors races and both US Senators are dems. Extremists in both parties and the media have made way too much out of this race as they tend to do during a slower news cycle. So why not move on to something more people care about and quit with the condescending snark?

    • Submitted by Frank Phelan on 11/09/2017 - 12:31 pm.

      What Media Coverage?

      Fox News barely mentioned the election at all. And on Wednesday Brietbart was wall to wall coverage of the election results from… 2016.

    • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 11/09/2017 - 01:02 pm.

      A River Running Through Northeastern Africa

      It’s an important story because it was not certain Virginia would go Democratic this time around. It’s an important story because it shows the limitations of the Kulturkampf as a campaign strategy. It’s an important story because it shows that Trumpism is not making inroads in a purple state (the General Assembly in Virginia is dominated by Republicans, BTW). You can clap your hands over your ears all you want, but this story still matters. It is not “condescending snark” to point that out, any more than it is condescending snark to point out how many elected offices are held by Republicans, or that popular vote be damned, Trump is still President.

      So what is it that more people care about? Why Hillary Clinton is not in jail?

  4. Submitted by Neal Rovick on 11/09/2017 - 12:01 pm.

    Sure, be more “Trumpy”–don’t pay attention to the 60% of the voters–it’s just “fake news polls”.

    The shift from the Jacobins to Robespierre.

    Only another 3 years to go !

  5. Submitted by Ray Schoch on 11/09/2017 - 12:45 pm.

    Thank you

    …Mr. Rovick.

    It’s a natural human tendency for those who lose a contest to want the public’s attention diverted to something else. See every losing presidential candidate, ever, and even when their complaints had validity.

    Given what I’ve seen in the past 12 months, it’s going to be a very long, overly coarse and dramatic 3 years, with no guarantee, unfortunately, that the same demagogue, or a different demagogue, won’t be elected in 2020, with similar coarseness and diversionary B.S. in 2018 for practice.

    • Submitted by Tim Smith on 11/09/2017 - 02:12 pm.

      yes losers love distractions

      Russia, Russia, Russia, for instance, or Comey did it to me, or Bernie did it, or damn we forgot about the electoral college, geez. Yah those losers sure do like to distract us and not take responsibility for losing or not connecting with voters who used to vote for them but turned away this time from their identity politics and political correctness.

      • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 11/10/2017 - 09:30 am.


        Trump is trying very hard to distract people from the fact that he lost the election, and has accomplished nothing as President.

  6. Submitted by Bill Willy on 11/09/2017 - 02:00 pm.

    Two things

    1) Mr. Big’s big problems, lower than low approval ratings that include big drops in percentages among his non-Republican voters (“working-class whites,” independents, etc.); and

    2) Turnout . . . A long time ago a retired school teacher and local DFL activist told me, “When turnout is high, Democrats win. When it’s low they lose. It’s that simple.” I didn’t think a lot about it at the time, but never forgot that, have watched it ever since and he seems to have been right.

    Regarding Mr. Big’s problems, new lows and “base erosion” (and for those who don’t trust the lamestream or “obviously liberal” media) take a look at these two recent pieces from Fox News:

    “Trump unsteady with base as Mueller storm sets in”

    “Fox News Poll: Storms erode Trump’s ratings”

    Regarding turnout, in Virginia, “Turnout [for both parities] was the highest in 20 years for a gubernatorial race, five percentage points and 10 percentage points higher than the last two. And voters in the urban and rural regions of the state broke more heavily along party lines than they had in the prior elections.”

    And even though these things are in the “Who knows what it means but it must be driving the ‘White nationalists’ and staunch conseratives wild” category, there was this (in Montana of all places):

    “Liberian refugee elected mayor of Montana capital”

    And there was this (just about everywhere there was an election, north, south, east and west):

    “The women, people of color, and LGBTQ candidates who made history in the 2017 election

    “Barrier-breaking candidates won races across the country on Election Day this year. The results were a parade of ‘firsts’ from New Hampshire to North Carolina to Montana as women, people of color, and LGBTQ candidates became the first to win elections in their respective contests.

    “Cities in Minnesota and Montana elected their first black mayors, and Charlotte, North Carolina, elected a black woman as mayor for the first time. Virginia elected its first Latina and Asian-American delegates. Transgender candidates won races in Virginia, Minnesota, California, and Pennsylvania.

    “Tuesday was a big night for Democrats — and these historic ‘firsts’ show that the party can run a diverse slate of candidates and win.”

    Who knows if it will last, build momentum, etc. (maybe the president will try to get the Justice Department or/and the military to arrest everyone unwilling to embrace him) but the way democracy works is interesting sometimes, isn’t it?

  7. Submitted by Ilya Gutman on 11/09/2017 - 09:19 pm.

    The results in Virginia are not surprising at all – I don’t think any Republican candidate could have won there at the moment. Virginia is getting bluer and bluer (no wonder considering that Washington DC has more and more people working there and living in Virginia) and Trump has been very unpopular there (actually, I think Gillespie did much better than Trump would have based on his approval numbers). So Republicans should get over the results, as Mr. Black suggested, and stop counting Virginia as a swing state.

    But there are a couple points I’d like to make. Mr. Black said that “Gillespie actually went many steps down the road toward pandering to Trump supporters. He ran against immigrants as a threat to public safety. He made noises about the importance of leaving up monuments to Confederate heroes.” This is a very misleading and unfair statement. First, I believe, he said that MS-13 gang members are a threat to public safety which is totally true and which Democrats managed to twist and spin. And second, saying that it is important to keep Confederate monuments is based on reason and history not pandering to right wingers (otherwise, should we rename the Lindbergh Terminal – he was a Nazi sympathizer and an anti-Semite). Anti-Gillespie commercial showing minority kids running away from a truck driven by supposed Gillespie supporter was obscene. As Mr. Black noted, Gillespie was Bush’s fan and, therefore, is very moderate.

    And second, it is worth mentioning that the new governor of New Jersey is a Goldman Sacks executive with 23 year career there… So much for fighting the Wall Street.

    Also, can we please stop using diminutive terms for Trump supporters? It doesn’t add to discussion and puts people down without serving any purpose except showing frustration….

    • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 11/10/2017 - 11:36 am.

      Another couple of points….

      Street gangs are certainly a threat to public safety, but they kill far fewer people than does the lack of health care. Priorities.
      Lindbergh was not a nice person and I would not choose to honor him.
      However, he did not wage war against the United States of America and kill American citizens.
      As you say, Suthroners should admit that they lost their war of rebellion and live with being American citizens.

  8. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 11/10/2017 - 10:21 am.

    It doesn’t really matter

    These guys have all long since spun off into their own imaginary universe so it doesn’t really matter who or what they blame.

    One thing is clear: for all the hype around American’s being “polarized” we know that a clear majority of Americans oppose these Republicans, Trump, and their agenda. It’s just a matter of time before that opposition manifests itself at the ballot box. The more toxic and obnoxious and unpopular Republicans are, the more likely they are to loose, despite decades of trying to rig elections, depress turnout, and slice up districts in their own favor.

    The real question is whether or not Democrats will take advantage of this opportunity to enact all the common sense off the shelf policies that they’ve been suppressing for decades? Let’s hope that the Democratic Party decides to reward voters who vote for Democrats with liberal initiatives instead of the Republican initiatives.

  9. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 11/15/2017 - 07:30 am.

    Confusion is the natural state of politics. The reason for this is simple enough, politics involves the interaction of different and often contradictory forces. Inevitable, things that strengthen one force will also strengthen, other forces that are different or in contradiction. Does Trump hurt or help? The correct answer to this question is that in varying degree he does both. In politics all the swords have at least two edges and some of them have a great many more.

Leave a Reply