Following a Democratic wave in the Nov. 7 Virginia election, several Republicans have asserted that President Donald Trump has energized those who support the Democratic Party to vote in greater in numbers. One Virginia lawmaker called the Democrats' surge turnout a "referendum on this administration."
Democratic candidate Ralph Northam beat GOP candidate Ed Gillespie to become the next Virginia governor. Northam racked up 54 percent of the statewide vote while Gillespie garnered 45 percent. Democratic candidate Justin Fairfax was also elected the state's next lieutenant governor with a margin of 5 percentage points over GOP candidate Jill Vogel, according to The New York Times.
The Virginia election was expected to be a highly competitive race that would indicate the country's political winds one year after Trump was elected president. Democrats outperformed expectations in down ballot races, snatching up at least 15 seats in the Virginia House of Delegates. The sweep could hand Democrats control over the Virginia House, pending several recounts, The Washington Post reports.
"This is an unbelievable night," said the Virginia House Minority Leader, Democratic state Rep. David J. Toscano. "There were districts we didn't think we had much of a shot in."
Election analyst David Wasserman of the Cook Political Report concluded, "It's hard to look at tonight's results and to conclude anything other than that Democrats are the current favorite for control of the House in 2018."
Former GOP Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, currently a political pundit, asserted that the election results reflected poorly on Trump's ability to mobilize Republican voters.
"I think the bottom line is Donald Trump is not delivering on what he said he was going to deliver on, and that's the problem," Santorum told CNN. "And he needs to deliver, and if there's a message for Republicans they better get that message and they better start passing stuff and looking like they can govern."
Santorum added, "I think the fundamental issue here is what's going on in the country, which base was motivated. And right now, I think it's clear ... the Democrats were motivated."
Trump had recorded robocalls for the Gillespie campaign and took to social media on the morning of the election to urge Republican voters to turn out.
"[Ed Gillespie] will totally turn around the high crime and poor economic performance of VA," Trump tweeted. "MS-13 and crime will be gone. Vote today, ASAP!"
Trump swiftly distanced himself from the gubernatorial candidate shortly after the race was called for Northam.
"Ed Gillespie worked hard but did not embrace me or what I stand for," Trump tweeted.
Santorum pushed back on Trump's tweet, stating "You're blaming it on Ed, and I just don't think it's Ed's fault."
Gillespie had not invited Trump to campaign in Virginia on his behalf but campaigned heavily on issues that the president previously raised. The GOP candidate's campaign advertisements were heavily focused on so-called sanctuary cities, football players taking a knee during the national anthem and preserving Confederate monuments, according to CNN.
GOP state Rep. Scott Taylor was even more adamant that Trump had negatively impacted the Republican Party in Virginia.
"I don't know how you get around that this wasn't this is a referendum on the administration," Taylor said after Gillespie lost, according to The Hill. "Some of the very divisive rhetoric really prompted and helped usher in a really high Democratic turnout in Virginia."
Taylor also chided Trump for tweeting that Gillespie lost because he did not hew closely enough to his agenda.
"With all due respect to [Trump] I think he's profoundly wrong in his tweet," Taylor continued. "I'm telling you that from someone who is in Virginia, who watched these races, who watched people lose tonight against opponents who are completely no name."
An election exit poll found that 47 percent of Virginians who cast a ballot said Trump was not a factor in their vote for governor. Only 17 percent said they voted to support Trump. Of those polled, 34 percent said they voted to express opposition to the president, with 95 percent of those voters casting a ballot for Northam, NBC News reports.
Sources: CNN via YouTube, Donald J. Trump/Twitter (2), The Hill, NBC News, The New York Times, The Washington Post / Featured Image: Gage Skidmore/Flickr / Embedded Images: Gage Skidmore/Flickr, Richmond Tea Party/Flickr