Exactly one year before the 2018 midterm elections, Tuesday’s off-year elections have given some much-needed hope to Democrats.
In the purple state of Virginia, Democrats managed to hold on to the Governor’s Mansion and may have flipped control of that Legislature’s lower house, pending some recounts.
S.C. Democrats see hopes of an anti-Trump backlash in Virginia Republican Ed Gillespie’s loss in that state’s race for governor.
S.C. Democratic Party chairman Trav Robertson thinks those results bode ill for GOP candidate Catherine Templeton in particular, who embraced former White House strategist Steve Bannon in Charleston Friday.
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“Gillespie ran a campaign of hatred, tied himself to Steve Bannon, and he went from being a mainstream, establishment Republican to a fringe candidate,” Robertson said.
Robertson also thinks GOP Gov. Henry McMaster fits the same mold as Gillespie, which means he should have been “running in the opposite direction” during Bannon’s S.C. visit. (Instead, McMaster too went to Charleston, too, to meet with Bannon.)
However, S.C. GOP chairman Drew McKissick thinks Gillespie had the opposite problem — the Virginian passed on bringing Trump operatives onto his campaign, avoided campaigning with the president and, as a result, underperformed Trump’s 2016 Virginia numbers.
McKissick blames Tuesday’s Republican losses on the lack of legislative accomplishments in Washington, where the GOP controls both houses of Congress and the presidency. The failure to get anything done discourages committed Republicans, including those in South Carolina, the GOP chairman said.
“We should have come out the gate on repealing Obamacare, on the tax bill,” McKissick said. “We’ve got the numbers. It’s not rocket science. We just have some Republicans who have decided not to be team players.”
Democratic candidate for governor Phil Noble said the demographics of Tuesday’s voters give Democrats hope in 2018.
“As long as we present a real alternative, you can get a huge influx of new people,” Noble said, decrying “State House politicians who run as Republican-light.”
But state Rep. James Smith, the Richland Democrat who is the leader for his party’s gubernatorial nomination, thinks any Democratic victory in South Carolina will come as a result of focusing on South Carolina-specific concerns, not what worked or happened elsewhere.
“You’ve got to make the case to Democrats, Republicans and independents, so you’ve always got to be careful with that type of analysis,” Smith said.
While South Carolina didn’t have any statewide offices on the ballot Tuesday, Robertson pointed to successful Democratic candidates in several city elections, including in Columbia’s City Council races, the first black mayor of Georgetown and a new mayor in Chapin.
“The lessons that should be learned from this are not on the Democratic side,” Robertson said. “They’re on the Republican side.”