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Second-Hand Smoke: Did Trump Play a Part in Virginia Elections?

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of

There are 362 days until November 6, 2018 - the mid-term elections. That means the 2017 elections were just two days ago.

You know that Republican candidates got skunked in the elections held on Tuesday. Results in Virginia, New Jersey, and New York showed Republican after Republican going down to defeat.


Naturally, the pundit class immediately declared the election to be a referendum on Donald Trump.

Yeah, well, according to CNN's exit poll analysis of voters in Virginia, "nearly half say the President wasn't a factor in their vote on Tuesday, according to the preliminary data."

And, in New Jersey, according to

"57 percent of voters said their opinion of Trump was not a factor in how they voted Tuesday. Twenty-nine percent said they cast their ballots in opposition to Trump and 11 percent said they voted to support the president, the preliminary results showed."

Not surprisingly, because this is New Jersey, home of Tony Soprano, orange cones on the George Washington Bridge, and a sitting U.S. Senator awaiting the jury's decision on bribery charges, went on to report:

"More than a third of voters said government corruption was the top issue driving their vote, while another third cited property taxes and 20 percent said health care."

In Virginia the Democrats might well take control of the State House of Delegates pending the outcome of four races too-close-to call.

Nevertheless, they have picked up at least 15 seats including 12 held by Republicans seeking re-election. According to the Washington Post,


"The results marked the most sweeping shift in control of the legislature since Reconstruction."

For those who slept through that part of high school social studies, website puts the Reconstruction period from the end of the Civil War in1865 through the beginning of the Rutherford B. Hayes administration in 1877.

Republican candidate for Governor in Virginia, Ed Gillespie is a friend of more than two decades, and I voted for him with no reservations. He got more votes than any Republican candidate for Governor in the history of the Commonwealth. He still lost to Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam by more than 232,000 votes.

All that to say, Gillespie was not a drag on the under ticket. A lot of Virginians came out to vote for him.

One theory in Virginia is the Democrats fielded more candidates for the House of Delegates than ever before. In years gone by, there was no reason to get a candidate to run as a Democrat as they had no chance of winning and there is never enough campaign money in the state party coffers to support lost causes.

However, this year, again according to the WaPo:

"Democrats fielded the most candidates in recent memory, including a record number of women."


Why is that important? Because every one of those Democratic candidates had their own turnout operation; friends calling friends, urging supporters to go to the polls. The vast majority of them, while they were there, voted for Northam.

According to the aggregation of polls, on November 4 - just two days before the election - Northam's lead had shrunk to just 1.8 percentage points

Whatever happened in the final two days led the Democrat to a nine-point win.

Certainly to ignore Trump's influence on Tuesday's elections is to ignore reality.

I'm not certain that Tuesday was a direct referendum on Donald Trump, but it is clear to me that, like second-hand smoke, Trump was at least in the back of the minds of many, many voters.

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