To: Interested Parties
From: Bradley Beychok, American Bridge 21st Century President
Subject: Following Virginia Victory, Democrats Are Poised for 2018 Gains
The Democratic victory in Virginia is a sign of a coming wave in 2018. If we stay on this trajectory, Democrats are going to have a very successful 2018.
What you should be watching: the margin in Alabama next month. If the margin in Alabama surprises you the way Democrats surprised you tonight, Republicans shouldn’t be bracing for a wave in 2018 — they should be bracing for a tsunami
Across Virginia and in every 2018 battleground state, Democrats are enthusiastic and motivated, while Republicans are mired in dysfunction, chaos, and controversy. They are also demoralized as a result of their inability to accomplish their legislative goals, and as a result, are lagging in support and fundraising. Furthermore, they have no strategy to move forward; for those who thought the key to success was to mimic Trump, Virginia proved otherwise, as voters rejected Ed Gillespie’s race-baiting campaign.
Here are American Bridge‘s takeaways from the results in Virginia:
1. Trump is really that toxic.
Trump’s approval rating is already sagging in swing states he carried in November like Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Michigan, and is even worse in ones he didn’t. In Virginia, Trump’s approval rating dipped into the 30s. For the first time since Richard Nixon was president in 1973 and in the midst of the Watergate scandal, the sitting president did not campaign in Virginia or New Jersey, because he is that toxic.
Nationally, voters favor Democrats over Republicans in the 2018 midterms by the widest margin in years, and Donald Trump’s approval rating is at a historic low, hovering around 37 percent. That is a recipe for disaster.
“All politics is local,” was a line made famous by Tip O’Neill in 1982. That was 35 years ago. Times have changed, and anyone who thinks the national environment won’t be fueled by a widespread backlash to the party in control of the White House is doing so at their own peril. We saw this play out in 2006, 2010, and 2014 midterms, and we’ll see it again in 2018.
Gillespie never invited the president to campaign with him, fearing voter backlash. But that didn’t matter — Trump inserted himself into the race anyway and Gillespie was still held accountable for Trump’s actions. That dynamic won’t change between now and next year.
2. Democrats have the enthusiasm on our side.
Democratic enthusiasm in the wake of Donald Trump’s presidency is strong, durable, and translates into power at the ballot box. We haven’t seen this level of enthusiasm in midterm elections for quite some time now, but for the first time since 2006, the Democratic base is fired up. The grassroots energy at the Women’s March in January — and countless protests since then — has been mobilized at the ballot box. Beginning with huge Democratic turnout for Virginia’s primary — more than 175,000 more Virginians voted in the Democratic primary than the Republican primary — and carrying through the general election with strong turnout among the coalition that Democrats need to turn out in 2018.
In another sign of momentum, Democratic candidates are also far outpacing Republicans in fundraising, with Democratic Senate incumbents outraising their announced challengers in every state. In the House, “nearly three dozen Republican incumbents…outraised by Democratic challengers in the third quarter of this year – a stunning figure,” reports Politico. Over 160 Democratic candidates for House have raised over $100,000 in 2017, far outpacing House Democrats at this point in the past two cycles — and also outpacing House Republicans in the 2010 cycle. People invest in winners, and this trend will continue through next year.
3. The Republican Party’s failure and dysfunction will fuel a Democratic wave.
In 2006, a failed legislative initiative (Social Security privatization), an unpopular president (Bush), countless scandals (U.S. Attorneys, Jack Abramoff) and government incompetence (Hurricane Katrina) combined to create an anti-Republican wave that swept Democrats into power. Trump’s Republican Party is plagued by the similar challenges, only made worse with indictments now coming from the FBI, and that is a bad omen for Republican House, Senate, and gubernatorial hopefuls. Add in a growing wave of retirements, plus the war that Steve Bannon is waging on the GOP establishment and you have a recipe for an even larger Republican disaster. Meanwhile, the war between the conservative grassroots and the GOP’s D.C. establishment is driving a “nightmare scenario” for Republicans, who fear their party’s incompetence and divisions will keep right-wing voters home in 2018.
4. Republicans won’t be able to replicate Trump’s tactics and win.
Because Republican voters are unhappy with the party’s failed agenda, candidates will attempt to over-compensate in order to rally a depressed base. They’ll channel Trump in the same way Gillespie attempted during his failed campaign, complete with race-baiting tactics, extreme rhetoric, and divisive advertising. But Gillespie failed, and so will every mini-Trump that pops up in House, Senate, and gubernatorial races next year. These candidates won’t be able to overcome the toxic national environment.
We’ve seen this before and we know how it ends. Backlash is growing in response to Trump’s scandals, controversies, and incompetence, and voters are going to hold the Republican Party accountable. The national environment fueled mid-term victories in 2006, 2010 and 2014 for the party that wasn’t in control of the White House, and Republicans should brace themselves for similar results in 2018. Virginia is just the beginning.