The Virginia Election and Trump’s impact, what does it mean?

Everyone, pump your brakes and realize that last night was the first step on the journey of 1,000 miles, not a long term victory. Trump supporters voted for Gillespie at similar rate & share as for Trump. The Trump appeal did *worked* in the most hard-core trump areas, which moved even further towards Gillespie and he lost by 4 points more than Trump in 2016. This dynamic is reflective in the split between White voters with degree vs White voters without a degree and White urban/suburban voters versus White Exburb/Rural voters. The divide is growing between these voting consumer groups.

White Urban voters, White Suburban voters White college educated voters & White women voted against Trump through Gillespie at higher percentage, while increasing their share of the overall white vote. What was more telling about the partial White voter rebellion against Gillespie/Trump was the performance of White women with college degrees. This group that split evenly in the 2013 Virginia governor’s election, favored Northam by 16 points over Gillespie in preliminary exit polling, 58 percent to 42 percent. Northam’s margin is more than twice as wide as the margin Hillary Clinton won those voters by last year, 50 percent to 44 percent. Now Trump, Steve Bannon and the Conservative Mainstream Media (CMSM) are attacking Gillespie for not embracing Trump more and inviting them in to provide “full Trumpism” for Gillespie. Trump/Bannon believe they can increase the overall white voter % for Republican candidates w/these groups, while ignoring growing their American voters of color share beyond the 17%. Here’s what may shock you all, but without a full embrace by a Republican candidate of Trump in a purple, diverse electorate to see if their White Nationalism would pull these white voters that rejected Gillespie in or drive them away from Trump and their candidate. Lacking this full embrace, of Trump on the ground in a similar race, we can project but not speak with complete certainty.

Virginia Voters of Color rejected Trump through Gillespie at an equal percentage as 2016 (Net non-white 80% Northam, 19% Gillespie, Net non-white 79% Clinton 17% Trump), but increased their turnout rate (28% of total vote in 2013, 30% of total vote in 2014 and 33% of total vote in 2017). This is the second component that matters, yet is consistent. Trump’s white nationalism identity politics, by its nature is built to turn off Americans of Color and Jewish American voters as a part of attracting non-Trump white voters to Trump, the us versus them cycle. What was difference & is critical from this point, the backlash in participation from Virginia voters of color was just much bigger. It’s a good step, but to capitalize on the Trump dynamic and pivot towards a broader National Democratic wave, you have to increase understanding the “buying rationale” of different voting consumer groups & broaden sales message beyond “working class” or “middle class”. Dem policies help rich, middle & poor, speak to the broader anchor narrative of Dems for all Americans, Common Sense policies for a Common Sense America & then sell to individual voting consumer groups based upon their buying profile under this overarching message. Strategically, if Dems can pivot to a broader policy with phraseology narrative, retain these White voter groups & maintain Americans of Color voting percentage & their 2016 turnout levels at minimum, it opens up broader electoral map opportunities in 2018 and that gets you more seats.

Separately, Donald Trump & Steve Bannon war with the Establishment GOP towards white nationalist political agenda, is pushing the GOP off the narrow cliff of ethnicity. That cliff is the overwhelming White American share of Republican voters, which doesn’t give either side more wiggle room. Starting with national exit polling in the 1968 election, the share of Republican voters who are White Americans has not dropped below 88%. The highest share of Americans of color in the Republican electorate was 12% in both 2004 and the 2016 general elections. At the same time, Democratic voting share has grown more diverse, starting at 77% White/23% Americans of color in 1968 to 45% White American/55% Americans of color & Jewish American in 2016. As America has grown in the diversity of its adult population, the American of Color population has shifted to the Democratic Party in an outsized impact to their overall population share. The GOP can’t depend on a Republican voting consumer base of 88% to 96% White Americans. That base is decreasing by day & is becoming more ideologically in line with Trump than traditional Republican norms and values and has essentially stayed as proportionally white as it was in 1968. Gillespie’s partial embrace of this did help him maintain Trump level support in Trump parts of Virginia and increased his support with Trump counties over his 2014 US Senate campaign loss. So it worked and hurt him all at the same time.

So, while Virginia does provide the McConnell/Ryan Establishment wing of the GOP with a “Come to Jesus” opportunity, which would be to actually change their direction and attempt to implement a real & tangible sales approach to Americans of Color, Jewish Americans and the non-Trump White American voter, the critical push back from Trump/Bannon is to triple down on the white nationalist agenda & hope to grow their share of White American voters from 61% in 2016 to roughly 67% by 2018 and 71% by 2020. The looming question for Republicans is which path do you pick and how do you manage the backlash that you face either way? Last night was a step for both parties and will help shape the 2018 and 2020 electoral focus, but neither side has locked up the path to 2018 and 2020 based upon last night’s results.

I'm a Father, 10th generation American (family roots to South Carolina, 1725 roughly), Political, Public Policy, Economic Theory & Data Analytics SME.