Posts Tagged ‘Virginia’

Eric Holder, Barack Obama Lead Activities of Progressive Left Faction of the Democratic Party

June 19, 2018

Former President Barack Obama and former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder have planned — and are leading — a massive counter-offensive to give the progressive left faction of the Democratic Party control of key state legislative bodies and state supreme courts in time for congressional redistricting after the 2020 census.

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By Bill McCollum | Chairman of the Republican State Leadership Committee and former Florida congressman

If they are successful, Democrats could well control the U.S. House of Representatives for the decade of the 20s and have in place a progressive left farm team from which to draw leftist national leaders for many years beyond.

Presently, Republicans control 67 of our nation’s 99 state legislative bodies. This is near an all-time high for Republicans who have been steadily gaining majorities in every election cycle since 2010. It is the result of smart candidate recruitment, messaging better ideas for education and growing jobs and businesses, strong state leadership and a national plan and organization led by the Republican State Leadership Committee (RSLC).

But this could change quickly.

In recent election cycles, Republicans, Democrats and their allies have been spending roughly at parity on state legislative and judicial races across the country. The Obama-Holder led effort is on pace to exponentially outraise and outspend Republicans this November and again in 2020. Holder’s National Democratic Redistricting Committee alone already has raised its goal from $30 million to $40 million in new funds this cycle. Their targets are legislative and judicial races in about a dozen key battleground states including Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Nevada, North Carolina and Florida. Among the groups spawned to help this scheme, Forward Majority announced it would spend $100 million to spend on targeted legislative races in the same key states in the 2018 and 2020 election cycles. The Center for Popular Democracy Action announced it will raise and spend an additional $80 million mobilizing progressives and will target six state legislatures. Additional funding will continue to come from unions, trial lawyers, Planned Parenthood, George Soros, Tom Steyer and others.

At the same time those supporting the Obama-Holder led counter-offensive are working to suppress political donations by corporations and their executives to Republican causes and candidates. The Soros funded Center for Political Accountability’s Hicklin Index is used by progressive left activists to paralyze and silence pro-business interests. The group works closely with the Coalition for Accountability in Political Spending (CAPS) which aims “to direct corporate America to change its ways,” promising to “inflict economic damage on offending companies.” CAPS partners with activists and unions to submit proxy resolutions at shareholder meetings, not in hopes of passing a resolution, but rather getting the attention of the C-Suite and silencing a company’s efforts in public discourse and political participation. The fear alone of becoming a CAPS target is reducing contributions to pro-business political organizations and boosting corporate giving to Democratic and “Social Justice” causes working against free enterprise and even the existence of shareholder owned corporations.

Last week Publix, Florida’s leading grocer, suspended making political contributions in the face of store “die-ins” organized by anti-gun activists to protest Publix’s support of a Republican candidate for Governor because of his views in the gun debate. The success of such intimidation will encourage more of the same not just concerning guns, but on any controversial topic arising in campaigns. The issue is corporate free speech. The organizers of the Obama-Holder led counter-offensive know that the more companies and their executives decide to quit making political contributions for fear of possible customer or shareholder disapproval, the less money will be available to Republicans to counter their massive spending plans.

If the Obama-Holder effort is successful in rolling back Republican legislative majorities, there is more to be lost than control of redistricting. States with GOP governors and legislative majorities have demonstrated how to grow jobs, spur innovation and provide children with a better education by reducing taxes and regulatory burdens, enacting litigation reform and right to work laws, restoring solvency to government pension plans, and putting in place school choice, charter schools and school accountability standards. Contrast Republican led states with New York, Connecticut, California and Illinois where progressive left Democrats have driven up taxes, appeased unions and trial lawyers, thrown money at bad schools and lost jobs as businesses relocate elsewhere. Never have the differences between the two parties been greater or easier to see than in the states. The choice is between states governed by those focused on opportunity, economic growth and choice and those using a socialist lens to redistribute wealth and beholden to government unions and trial lawyers.

In the category of “you can’t make this stuff up,” recently four Pennsylvania state House candidates backed by the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) won Democratic primaries. As reported by the HuffPost, Arielle Cohen, co-chair of Pittsburg DSA stated, “We won on popular demands that were deemed impossible. We won on health care for all; we won on free education.” And she added, “We’re turning the state the right shade of red tonight.”

The Obama-Holder progressive left counter-offensive is real. Unless Republican and business leaders wake up and take action to confront it with a plan, leadership and adequate resources it could succeed and end the America of individual liberty and free enterprise upon which this nation was founded.

Bill McCollum, is the chairman of the Republican State Leadership Committee and former Florida congressman and attorney general.

The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.


Trump tested his power in last night’s primaries — and won

June 13, 2018


Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Republicans saw a trend continue in South Carolina, where an incumbent who opposed President Trump lost his primary just one week after an incumbent congresswoman in Alabama, who was critical of the president, was forced into a runoff.

Why this matters: The president is becoming a one-man litmus test for Republicans all over the country, proving the GOP has little room for an agenda or ideas that don’t align with his.

Be smart: This isn’t all that surprising. President Trump has an 87% approval rating with Republicans (the second highest since George W. Bush after 9/11). We’ve seen Republicans across the country shift their loyalty to him and away from the party itself.

South Carolina

The Trump factor: The Republican incumbent in South Carolina’s 1st district, Mark Sanford, has criticized President Trump for his tariffs, his behavior, and he’s called on him to release his tax returns. His lack of loyalty to the president ended his congressional career.

  • The president tweeted his support for Sanford’s challenger Katie Arrington just hours before the polls closed. Sanford lost his primary for re-election just one week after Martha Roby — a Republican representative in Alabama — was forced into a runoff after she was tagged as disloyal to Trump. (Roby criticized him after the “Access Hollywood” tape was released during the 2016 election.)

Governor’s race: Henry McMaster, a Republican candidate running for governor, was the first statewide elected official to endorse Trump in 2016, which went a long way: President Trump weighed in twice for him on Twitter.

  • He didn’t make the 50% threshold, so he’s heading to a runoff on June 26, but expect the president to renew his support then.


Democrats look poised to keep their blue wave washing over Virginia after last night’s primaries. Strong Democratic women candidates were nominated in the state’s four most vulnerable GOP-held districts (2nd, 6th, 7th and 10th) and a controversial conservative candidate was nominated for U.S. Senate.

  • Why it matters: Women have been outperforming in Democratic primaries across the country, and they dominated in last year’s elections, with women winning 11 of the 15 state legislature seats Democrats flipped. Overall, Democrats swept Virginia in the 2017 elections for governor and state legislature.
  • GOP Rep. Barbara Comstock will face Jennifer Wexton in Virginia’s 10th district. The real warning sign here is that Comstock, a two-term incumbent, couldn’t prevent her random Republican challenger from getting nearly 40% of the vote.

Virginia’s GOP Senate primary is already giving Republicans a headache. Controversial candidate Corey Stewart won; he’ll face Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine in November.

  • Just look at what Republicans are saying. The state’s former Republican lieutenant governor said he was “extremely disappointed” in Stewart’s victory. “Every time I think things can’t get worse they do, and there is no end in sight,” he tweeted.
  • “Stewart will bring down the entire ticket,” a national Democratic source told Richmond Times-Dispatch reporter Patrick Wilson.
  • The Cook Political Report’s Dave Wasserman predicts Stewart’s victory will weaken Republicans’ chances in four House races across the state.

The bottom line: The two most powerful forces in this year’s midterm elections so far are women and President Trump.

There will be no Trump collapse

June 6, 2018

I’ve tried everything to avoid thinking about the next election — family travel, yard work, crossword puzzles. But now it’s only five months away, barely longer than the gestation period of a North American beaver, or the Stanley Cup playoffs. November can’t be avoided any longer.

In this climate of political frenzy, anyone who tries to predict the outcome must be either deluded or clairvoyant. Yet we’re close enough, perhaps, to see some key features of the battlefield. For instance:

There will be no Trump collapse.

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From the moment late in 2016 when Hillary Clinton’s formless, themeless, listless campaign handed the White House to Donald Trump (assisted by Comrade Putin), Democrats have been counting on the reckless, heedless, careless novice to return the favor. Rather than melt down, though, President Trump is gaining strength.

After a rocky start, the president has cut himself loose from the highly unpopular Congress to create a clear account of his unusual reign, which he repeats with unflagging discipline. He’s a rulebreaker who gets results, and the enemies of change are conspiring to stop him. This is a polarizing message, indeed. But Trump appears to understand that popularity and unpopularity aren’t necessarily opposites. They can be partners: Emotion runs both ways.

By David Von Drehle
The Washinton Post

Since Trump found his footing and lasered in on this message, his political fortunes have brightened considerably. Last December, the RealClearPolitics rolling average of presidential approval polls showed him underwater by a dangerous 21 percentage points. Nearly 60 percent of Americans disapproved of the president’s performance, while his approval rating sagged into the 30s.

But look what’s happened since. Despite a stalled stock market, and with the Republican agenda dead in the water, Trump’s numbers have popped to the surface. His approval rating has risen from a dismal 37 percent to 44 percent — not bad in this sour age. (At the same point in his presidency, Barack Obama had fallen to 46 percent approval on his way down to 44.)

Meanwhile, the gap between Trump’s approval and disapproval numbers has narrowed significantly, from 21 points to eight. Admittedly, that’s a pretty solid eight-point deficit; the intensity of opposition to Trump is unusually high. But his command of the GOP going into the midterm is complete. According to Gallup polling, Trump enjoys greater Republican loyalty than any president of the post-World War II era other than George W. Bush after 9/11.

Democrats have a mammoth task on their hands.

Trump’s utter domination of the political debate — he programs the news with his Twittering thumbs — has made it easy to forget the rest of the story. From state legislatures to governor’s mansions, from one end of Pennsylvania Avenue to the other, Democrats enter this election from the bottom of a deep, deep hole.

And their Plan A for escaping the hole, a big Blue Wave that will lift Democrats from coast to coast, may already have crested far out at sea. Looking again at the polling averages on RealClearPolitics, we see that Democrats enjoyed a sturdy 13-point advantage over Republicans in December among voters asked which party they favored to run Congress. That edge has ebbed to a mere 3.2 points.

On the other hand, Democrats have been overperforming.

From Virginia to Arizona to Alabama, Democratic voters in the Trump era have turned out in droves for off-year and special elections. Districts that Trump won by double-digits in 2016 have been turned into nail-biters thanks to his intensely energized opposition. And there is no shortage of enthusiastic Democratic flag-bearers: Their primaries are so stocked with fresh-faced newcomers that they might as well be auditions for “The Voice.”

What Democrats don’t have, not yet anyway (and time is running out), is a message. The deep philosophical rifts that Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) exploited in his surprisingly strong challenge to Clinton’s coronation two years ago have not healed. Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s (D-Calif.) grip on the reins of the House Democrats is tight but lifeless.

What looked like a winning message last winter — “not Trump” — appears less potent today. The president has set the bar for himself so low that if November comes and he hasn’t been frog-marched from the Oval Office in handcuffs, and hasn’t rendered the Earth a glowing nuclear ember, a sizable number of Americans will judge him a success.


It’s the economy, stupid.

Politics, like comedy, is all about timing, and Trump’s has been exquisite. Years of unprecedented pump-priming by the Federal Reserve have finally produced optimism about a (relative) gusher of economic growth, especially with unemployment rates falling and consumer confidence up. Congressional Republicans have further juiced things with a huge tax cut and massive deficit spending.

Dark clouds appear on the horizon. Rising oil prices. A looming trade war. And always, the wild card named Robert S. Mueller III.

But for now, the president’s political forecast is partly sunny.

US Navy re-establishes Second Fleet amid Russia tensions

May 5, 2018

Amid heightened tensions with Russia, the US Navy announced Friday the re-establishment of the US Second Fleet which will be responsible for Naval forces along the East Coast and in the northern Atlantic Ocean.

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Russian spy ship in Cuba — AP photo

The areas are seen as critical to counter the rising threat of Russia and the new US defense strategy that focuses more on great power rivalry, according to multiple US defense officials.
“Our National Defense Strategy makes clear that we’re back in an era of great power competition as the security environment continues to grow more challenging and complex,” Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson said at a change-of-command ceremony Friday in Norfolk, Virginia.
“That’s why today, we’re standing up Second Fleet to address these changes, particularly in the north Atlantic,” he added.
The Defense Department also announced that the US has offered to host and lead NATO’s newly proposed Joint Force Command for the Atlantic at Norfolk, Virginia.
“NATO is refocusing on the Atlantic in recognition of the great power competition prompted by a resurgent Russia,” Pentagon spokesman Johnny Michael told CNN.
The Trump administration’s new national defense strategy prioritized countering Russia and China and a US Navy official told CNN that, “the return to great power competition demands that we focus on the Atlantic.”
Re-establishing the second fleet “ensures dedicated reinforcement of the region and demonstrates a capable and credible deterrence effect” against adversaries, the official said.
US officials have expressed concerns about Russia’s increasing naval capability, particularly with regard to its submarine fleet, as well as the Russian’s navy increased presence in the Atlantic.
“They have launched a new submarine that I can safely say is closing the gap on some of our technologies,” Secretary of the Navy Richard Spencer told Congress last month. “But, we are hard at work, also, to make sure that gap does not close and that the rate of the gap does not increase.”
NATO and US officials have said that Russian submarine activity is at its highest levels since the Cold War. Officials are concerned that Russian submarines could pose a threat to US attempts to reinforce Europe by sea should a conflict take place between NATO and Russia.
Russia has also recently sent a spy ship up the east coast of the US and Russian Vladimir President Vladimir Putin has announced that Russia is seeking to develop an underwater nuclear armed drone..
A US Navy official told CNN that the fleet will eventually involve 250 personnel and be led by a three-star admiral.
Read the rest — Includes video:
See also: Reuters

Trump turns again on immigration, offers a path to citizenship for nearly 2 million “Dreamers” — Critics holler “No to Amnesty!”

January 26, 2018

U.S. Jobless Claims Plunge to Lowest Weekly Tally Since 1973

January 18, 2018


By Katia Dmitrieva

 Updated on 

U.S. filings for unemployment benefits plummeted to the lowest level in almost 45 years in a sign the job market will tighten further in 2018, Labor Department figures showed Thursday.


  • Jobless claims decreased by 41k to 220k (est. 249k); lowest level since Feb. 1973, biggest drop since April 2009
  • Continuing claims rose by 76k to 1.952m in week ended Jan. 6 (data reported with one-week lag)
  • Four-week average of initial claims, a less-volatile measure than the weekly figure, fell to 244,500 from the prior week’s 250,750

Key Takeaways

The drop in claims shows that companies are increasingly holding on to their employees amid a shortage of skilled labor. Businesses are struggling to find workers to fill positions, particularly in manufacturing and construction, as cited in some anecdotes for the Federal Reserve’s Beige Book released Wednesday.

The figures suggest the unemployment rate of 4.1 percent, already the lowest since 2000, could be poised to decline further. The latest week for claims includes the 12th of the month, which is the reference period for the Labor Department’s monthly employment surveys.

Caveats for the latest numbers include the fact that the week was sandwiched between two periods containing holidays, when data tend to be more volatile. In addition, more states than usual had estimated figures.

Other Details

  • Prior week’s reading was unrevised at 261,000
  • Unemployment rate among people eligible for benefits rose to 1.4 percent from 1.3 percent in previous week
  • Claims were estimated for Arkansas, California, Hawaii, Kentucky, Maine, Puerto Rico, Virginia, Wyoming
  • New York’s unadjusted claims fell by 26,190 to 23,171; California’s estimated, unadjusted claims rose by 11,994 to 59,284

— With assistance by Chris Middleton, and Vince Golle

As 2018 Nears, Both U.S. Parties Sail Into Tricky Political Winds

December 18, 2017

GOP faces stiff headwinds, but the map is a challenge for Democrats

Democrats face structural impediments to retaking control of Congress in next year’s midterm elections.
Democrats face structural impediments to retaking control of Congress in next year’s midterm elections. PHOTO: AARON P. BERNSTEIN/BLOOMBERG NEWS

A senior Republican in Congress was musing about the Washington landscape a couple of days ago, as his party neared the finish line on a landmark bill to rewrite the nation’s tax system.

The Republican Congress and President Donald Trump have been more successful this year than is generally acknowledged, he argued. In addition to that tax bill, Republicans have rolled back regulations, confirmed a swath of conservative judges and begun ramping up spending on defense—all actions immensely pleasing to their base.

Then he turned to the party’s political condition. “Politically,” he said, “it’s a very dangerous time.”

As that paradoxical assessment suggests, leaders of both parties face an extraordinarily complex political picture as the year draws to a close and 2018 midterm elections approach.

The Republicans’ tax-bill success, likely to be finalized in the next couple of days, will re-energize a party base discouraged by earlier setbacks and help ease doubts about whether the GOP can get things done when fully in charge.

Yet Republicans face a significant challenge in selling that tax bill to a public that appears broadly skeptical of its virtues and fairness. They also have suffered significant defeats in recent high-profile elections, are led by a polarizing president whose popularity continues to sag, and see slumping poll numbers nationally.

Meanwhile, Democrats face their own set of mixed indicators. They have those big recent election victories, in Virginia and Alabama, to energize their base and their donors. Fired-up candidates are lining up to run as Democrats next year, and a new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll finds voters saying by a double-digit margin they want Democrats to control Congress after next year’s elections.

What the Tax Bill’s Passage Will Mean for 2018 Politics
Senate Republicans have lined up behind the final version of a tax-overhaul bill, setting the stage for final passage this week. WSJ’s Gerald F. Seib explains the immediate political impact the bill will have. Photo: AP

Yet Democrats also face structural impediments in the current political system that will make it harder for them to achieve the kinds of gains such poll numbers suggest, and they confront a potentially destabilizing internal philosophical divide that could easily grow in coming months.

The big question is what this complicated equation will add up to in 2018. Those midterm elections now will begin occupying an increasing amount of Washington’s time and energy because both sides know their outcome will shape the last two years of the current Trump presidential terDemocrats would need to take over 24 seats now occupied by Republicans to win control of the House, and a mere two seats to take the Senate. The broad political indicators suggest both are possible.

In the new Journal/NBC News poll, voters indicate by 50% to 39% that they want Democrats to win control of Congress next year, while Mr. Trump’s job approval stands at 41%. Those numbers look an awful lot like those just before the 2006 midterm elections, when Democrats took back control of Congress and delivered a painful blow to Republican President George W. Bush.

Yet 11 months remain before the midterms, ample time for big events—think North Korea—to alter the landscape. Moreover, the political system is significantly more complex than it was in 2006, making it hard to figure out whether traditional barometers tell us what they once did.

“There are some structural limits that could temper the advantages” Democrats now appear to enjoy, says Doug Sosnik, a longtime Democratic strategist and top adviser to former President Bill Clinton.

In the race for control of the Senate, it is the Democrats’ misfortune that they have to defend 24 seats next year, while Republicans must defend only eight. Moreover, 10 of those Democratic seats are in states Mr. Trump won, five in states he won by double-digit margins.

In the House, Republican-led redistricting efforts have left many GOP members in districts so solidly red that they likely will be able to survive even a midsize national Democratic wave. Indeed, the authoritative Cook Political Report lists just 40 House Republican seats as highly competitive—that is, in races that are toss-ups or only lean one way or the other. Even in a good year for them, Democrats’ opportunities will be limited, and they’ll have to make good on most of them to prevail.

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Charlie Cook, who oversees the political report that carries his name, summarizes the situation this way: “Republicans could hardly face tougher headwinds, nor could Democrats face a tougher map.”

The best news for Democrats, Mr. Sosnik says, is evidence from Virginia and Alabama of high enthusiasm for them among crucial voting blocs, particularly African-Americans and suburban women.

The challenge for Democrats is to avoid seeing that enthusiasm damped by an internal fight between progressive activists, who think they are delivering the energy, and moderates, who think they are delivering the centrist and independent votes needed for broad victories. Democrats’ hope for a big wave will require both—and that won’t be easy.

Write to Gerald F. Seib at

GOP is shackled to Trump

November 13, 2017

By Juan Williams
The Hill
November 13, 2017

Well, there goes the fake news.

It is real news that Republicans got shellacked last Tuesday in gubernatorial races in Virginia and New Jersey.

And it is real news that President Trump’s grip as the party’s leader loosened for the first time since he claimed the White House.

Republican running in 2018 saw the reality of an anti-Trump wave among white suburban voters. House Republicans rely on votes from suburban areas to keep their majorities in states such as Pennsylvania, Georgia, and Florida.


Republicans currently hold 23 seats in congressional districts won by Hillary Clinton in 2016 and 11 in districts she lost by fewer than five percentage points.

The anger at Trump was evident in exit polls conducted by Edison Media Research.

In Virginia, Republican Ed Gillespie won 91 percent of voters who “approve of the way Trump is handling his job as president.” Democrat Ralph Northam won 87 percent of those who disapprove.

In essence, Gillespie had all the Trump voters. But there just weren’t enough of them and Northam won easily, by nine points.

People upset with Trump turned out in big numbers. In fact, exit polls showed one-third of the electorate wanted to send a message of opposition to Trump with their vote for governor.

Now the urgent fear among Republicans on Capitol Hill is a 2018 landslide for Democrats as voters turn on Trump.

The vote in Virginia comes on the heels of Trump’s disapproval hitting 57 percent in the latest Fox News poll.

The president’s support among white men without a college degree is down to 56 percent from the 71 percent who voted for him a year ago. He has lost support among white evangelicals, with 66 percent supporting him now instead of the 80 percent that voted for him. He has also seen his support among independents slide from 46 percent in 2016 to 30 percent today.

Trump’s support among self-identified Republicans remains high at 83 percent in the Fox poll, but fewer people overall are identifying themselves as Republicans.

That sets the stage for the battle to claim the future of the party going into the 2018 races.

On one side, you have Trump and Steve Bannon, his former top political aide. On the other side are the Presidents Bush, both 41 and 43, with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) trapped in the ring and ducking punches from both sides.

The fight comes down to a contest between Trump’s anti-immigrant, isolationist, white grievance politics and the Bush policies favoring immigration, free trade and growing the party through outreach to racial minorities.

After last week’s defeat in Virginia, Trump and Bannon quickly threw dirt on Gillespie. Trump said Gillespie did “not embrace me or what I stand for.” Bannon piled on by saying the “lesson” of the loss was that future Republican candidates must avoid campaigning with President George W. Bush and “embrace the entire Trump agenda,” to the point of taking Trump on the campaign trail.

But Gillespie, the former party chairman, did use Trump-like advertising that focused on stirring fear of immigrants by tying them to MS-13 gangs; he did defend Confederate statues; and he did attack athletes kneeling to protest police brutality.

Gillespie lost because Virginia voters rejected Trump’s politics.

The Bush team also punched back.

“This guy doesn’t know what it means to be president,” the younger President Bush said of Trump in an interview for a new book.

“I don’t like him,” the elder President Bush told author Mark Updegrove. “I don’t know much about [Trump] but I know he’s a blowhard. And I’m not too excited about him being our leader.”

The Bush’s comments drew a sharp rebuke from Trump’s White House

“If one presidential candidate can disassemble a political party, it speaks volumes about how strong a legacy its past two presidents really had,” an unnamed White House official told CNN. “And that begins with the Iraq war, one of the greatest foreign policy mistakes in American history.”

The split between Bush-style establishment conservatism and Trump populism has already hurt the party with about two dozen House Republicans announcing this is a good time for them to leave.

That rush for the door comes as polls show “voters say they prefer Democratic candidates for the House of Representatives over Republicans by the widest margin in over a decade,” the Washington Post reported before Tuesday’s GOP collapse.

Ryan said last week that despite the intraparty fight, it is too late for his House caucus to do anything but side with Trump on the future of the party.

“We already made that choice,” Ryan said on Fox News Radio. “We’re with Trump. We already made that choice… That’s a choice we made during the campaign, which is we merged our agendas.”

What must Republican congressional candidates be thinking today when their Speaker tells them they are handcuffed to a president who has the lowest approval rating in 70 years? At what point do they ignore the Speaker’s directive, cut ties with the president and strike out on their own?

A recent Washington Post/ABC News poll found that just 37 percent of Americans approve of the way Trump is handling his job, while 59 percent disapprove. In the history of the poll, no American president has had a net negative rating so high in his ninth month in office since Harry Truman in 1945.

But Ryan has the real news: Every Republican on the ballot in 2018 will have Donald Trump as a running mate.

Juan Williams is an author, and a political analyst for Fox News Channel.


Republicans Take Stock After Election Losses

November 9, 2017

Both parties re-examine plans for 2018 House and Senate campaigns following Democratic victories

Virginia Gov.-elect, Ralph Northam at a news conference at the Capitol in Richmond Wednesday. Photo: Steve Helber/Associated Press

Republicans scrambled Wednesday to prevent a potential Democratic wave in next year’s midterm elections after a political shellacking Tuesday fueled by opposition to President Donald Trump.

The results of elections from Virginia to Washington state produced Democratic victories up and down the ballot, prompting both parties to take fresh looks at their plans for House and Senate campaigns next year.

For Republicans in swing districts, the failed campaign of GOP gubernatorial candidate Ed Gillespie in Virginia was a reminder of the complex landscape ahead of them. Mr. Gillespie tried to walk a line by embracing Mr. Trump’s agenda but not campaigning alongside the GOP president.

He lost to Ralph Northam by 9 percentage points, the largest victory margin for a Virginia Democratic gubernatorial candidate since 1985. Mr. Northam notched even wider margins among women and suburban voters who will be central to key House battleground districts.

“It was a referendum on the president for many of them,” said Rep. Ryan Costello, a Republican who heard that message even in local races in his swing district in suburban Philadelphia. “You had a lot more people, a lot more people vote Democrat than they ever had before.”

Bryan Lanza, who worked for Mr. Trump’s presidential campaign, said in an interview that the vote should be a wake-up call for Republicans who have not delivered on policy.

“Last night showed the voters are frustrated with the status quo and inaction,” Mr. Lanza said. “Republicans were punished at the polls, and it’s painful.”

House Republicans have long said that passing a tax overhaul was necessary for them to retain their House majority, but after Tuesday’s loss in Virginia some said that even that might not be sufficient.

“This really is a sort of do-or-die moment, in my view, in terms of holding the majority,” said Rep. Tom Cole (R., Okla.), referring to the tax legislation. “It doesn’t guarantee you success, but it’s a precondition for success.”

Democrats were surprised by the magnitude of their electoral wins, which overshadowed for now intraparty disagreements over how to recover from their bitter loss to Mr. Trump last year. Their wins came in both marquee races and more-obscure corners of the U.S. political map, which underscored for them the importance of fielding candidates even in long-shot districts to catch whatever political wave may form next year, strategists said.

In Virginia, Democrats not only swept the governor’s mansion and two other statewide offices, they are tantalizingly close to winning control of the House of Delegates. Democrats flipped at least 15 seats; if they pick up one more of the yet-to-be-settled races, Republicans would lose their majority. The last time Democrats ran the chamber was 1999.

In New Jersey, a Democratic victory in the gubernatorial race means the party will control both chambers of the state Legislature and the governor’s mansion, beginning in January.

The election of one new Democratic state senator in Washington state flipped party control of the chamber from Republican to Democratic.



In Georgia, Democrats won three state legislative special elections, including two in districts that were considered safely GOP. That cost Republicans their supermajority in the state Senate.

Political analysts and operatives from both parties caution against over reading the implications of one election for another especially when the next one is a year away.

Mr. Trump sought on Tuesday to pre-empt suggestions that the Virginia loss was a reflection on him, tweeting that Mr. Gillespie “did not embrace me or what I stand for.” The president’s associates continued the damage control Wednesday, with one calling reporters in for a briefing to say the result was “not about the president.”

But the impact of the president’s unpopularity was clear in the bitterly fought Virginia race. According to exit polls, 57% of Virginia voters said they disapproved of the job Mr. Trump was doing. Of those voters, 87% voted for Mr. Northam.

Asked what message they were sending with their vote, 34% said they were voting to express disapproval of the president—twice as many as said they were voting to express support for him.

“The level of intensity, the level of antipathy to Trump is so palpable,” said Rep. Gerry Connolly (D., Va.). “The desire of our base and independents troubled by Trump is just red-hot to do something. So when you offer them something, like an election, they came out in droves.”

There is historical precedent for the Virginia and New Jersey gubernatorial races serving as a bellwether for the first midterm election of a new presidency. In 1994, 2006 and 2010—the last three times control of the House changed parties—the midterm result was foretold by the party that won the Virginia and New Jersey gubernatorial races the year before.

Democrats need to flip 24 seats to take control of the House. Key targets are the 23 Republican-held districts where Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton beat Mr. Trump in 2016. But the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has said it aims to put 80 districts in play and has managed to recruit candidates in 75 of them so far.

“That strategy of building a huge battlefield with great candidates, even in really tough districts, is going to be crucial,” said Tyler Law, the committee’s spokesman.

In Virginia, Democrats made a concerted effort to field challengers for Republicans in the House of Delegates who had gone unopposed in the past. The candidate field was notably diverse, including the first openly transgender person to win state legislative office. They ended up winning at least 15 seats —far more than even the most optimistic partisans expected.

“It was beyond imaginable,” said Ben Wikler, Washington director of the liberal group As returns rolled in, he said, “it felt like the Fourth of July, with fireworks going off every few minutes.”

Some activists believe the grass-roots campaigns behind the state legislative candidates helped drive turnout statewide, perhaps compensating for the tepid support some progressives felt for Mr. Northam, a soft-spoken former army doctor. Stephanie Taylor, a co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, called it a “reverse coattail” effect.

“We saw statewide candidates boosted by the energy of inspiring down-ballot candidates,” she said.

Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel said the GOP couldn’t afford to run away from a president so popular with the party base. “I will always say to any candidate in our party, the greatest enthusiasm in our party right now is for President Trump,” she said in an interview on Fox.

Many Republicans in swing districts will face the same conundrum that Mr. Gillespie confronted in Virginia. Can they run with Mr. Trump without risking alienating swing voters and can they run without him if they want to hold on to his supporters?

Some vulnerable Republicans said Wednesday that they would seek to brand themselves as independent operators not bound to Mr. Trump’s confrontational style and populism.

“People understand that I’m very much an independent and I’m going to continue being an independent and a moderate,” said Rep. John Katko, a New York Republican whose district Mrs. Clinton won last year.

Mr. Katko noted that one day earlier, he had been elected co-chairman of the Tuesday Group, a coalition of more than 50 centrist Republicans. “My brand, if you will, is well known to my local constituents,” he said.

Jesse Hunt, a spokesman for the National Republican Congressional Committee, said that GOP leaders will do their best to arm incumbents for battle in the face of political winds they already knew were blowing hard against them.

“I don’t think we needed last night’s results to tell us next year was going to be extremely competitive,” Mr. Hunt said. He added that the best way to counter the energy among anti-Trump Democratic voters is to invoke the person who energizes the GOP base: Rep. Nancy Pelosi of California, the House Democratic leader who often figures in Republican campaign ads.

“We are going to make this election about Nancy Pelosi,” Mr. Hunt said.

—Peter Nicholas
and Joshua Jamerson contributed to this article.


In Virginia, Democrats Learn the Shape of an Anti-Trump Coalition

November 8, 2017

Northam won by nearly double Clinton’s margin, riding wave of energy that carried down ballot

It is hard to interpret Ralph Northam’s decisive victory as anything other than a reaction to President Donald Trump.
It is hard to interpret Ralph Northam’s decisive victory as anything other than a reaction to President Donald Trump. PHOTO: WIN MCNAMEE/GETTY IMAGES

In their rousing election victories in Virginia on Tuesday, Democrats learned two important things: They found out what an anti-Trump coalition looks like, and they discovered it can be a winning one.

That coalition combines upper-scale white voters, millennials, minorities, suburban women and single women. Exit polling indicates that those groups not only went heavily for Democratic victor Ralph Northam in the governor’s race, but performed better for him than they did for Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election.

That tide produced a stunning nine-point victory for Mr. Northam—almost twice as large as the margin by which Mrs. Clinton carried the state—and it’s hard to interpret it as anything other than a reaction to President Donald Trump. He is the biggest actor on every political stage right now; almost everything happens in the Trump context.

In fact, the best news for Democrats may have been the signs that their wave of energy carried beyond the top race and down the ballot to elections for the state House of Delegates. Many thought Mr. Northam could win at the top of the ballot (though most concluded only barely), but nobody thought Democrats would be on the verge of turning the state legislature blue.

Still, there also are multiple, less-obvious cautionary notes for Democrats in Virginia, starting with the tendency to over-interpret such an off-off-year election.

Beyond that, this winning coalition brought decisive margins in blue parts of the state—the Washington suburbs, college towns and upper-scale coastal areas—but it wasn’t enough to break into the swath of red territory in central and southern Virginia. That part of the state continues to look and act a lot like Trump country in the interior of America.

Mrs. Clinton learned what happens in a presidential race when you run up victories, even big ones, in areas Democrats are strong but don’t crack through in areas where the party is weaker.

Moreover, Democratic success in Virginia probably will do more to paper over than resolve the Democrats’ split between establishment groups and the party’s progressive wing. Liberals had backed former Rep. Tom Perriello in the primary, were under-enthused by Mr. Northam, and thought he should have stressed economic issues more. They were particularly unhappy when he hedged his position supporting sanctuary cities that provide a haven for undocumented aliens. In short, the residual problem for Democrats is that progressives wanted a different kind of candidate and a different kind of campaign.

The good news for them, of course, is that all signs suggest that liberal activists largely swallowed those misgivings and went to work, and to the polls, anyway. We’ll see which side of the coin—tensions at the beginning or unity at the end—proves to be the most important dynamic elsewhere.

The underlying proposition of the campaign of losing Republican Ed Gillespie, meanwhile, was that he could win by having, in the words of populist political crusader Stephen Bannon, “Trumpism without Trump.” That is, that Mr. Gillespie could embrace Trump-like themes—the dangers from violent immigrants, the virtues of Confederate monuments—without embracing Mr. Trump himself personally.

It didn’t work as hoped, obviously. Why? For an answer, look at how two particularly energized Democratic groups performed Tuesday in Virginia.

Single women, inspired by Hillary Clinton and the chance to elect the nation’s first female president, were a big part of the Clinton coalition in 2016. But, one year after Mr. Trump became president, they turned out to be an even more-potent part of the Ralph Northam coalition.

Exit polling by Edison Media Research for the Washington Post and other news organizations shows that unmarried women went for the Democrat by a stunning 77% to 22% margin. That is to say, they went Democratic by more than three to one. The Democratic vote among single women this time was 16 percentage points higher than the vote they produced for Mrs. Clinton in 2016.

There is little except the arrival of a President Trump to explain the difference. In short, single women look an awful lot like a constituency that is newly energized.

Second, consider the performance of millennials, a core Democratic constituency, on Tuesday. NextGen America, a liberal activist group, chose nine precincts across Virginia where millennials make up a majority and monitored them to determine enthusiasm among young voters.

In each precinct—most around college campuses—residents aged 18 to 40 made up at least 60% of voters. In all of them, voter turnout was up over the totals seen in the governor’s election four years ago. In the area around Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, turnout more than doubled.

Energy matters in politics. And on Tuesday in Virginia, at least, Democrats seemed to capture it.