Following the defeat of GOP gubernatorial bid in Virginia, Rep. Dave Brat (R-VA) said that Republicans throughout the Old Dominion had failed to “nationalize” the election. “I always deal in policy, not personality and all the drama,” Brat told CNN’s John Berman and Poppy Harlow. “I don’t think it’s ever a matter of personality.” However, Brat defied establishment media narratives that the defeat of GOP candidate Ed Gillespie was a referendum on the presidency of Donald Trump.
Brat did not mention the president by name. He said that fellow Republicans should have raised national issues in the local campaigns, including the failure of the Republican caucus in Congress to repeal the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare). The Republican tax bill currently being discussed in Washington, which would cut corporate taxes and eliminate the estate tax, inter alia, is another issue which Brat said should have been raised. “I think we were running too much on state issues,” Brat said. “Even at the state level, Virginia only grew at 0.6 percent GDP growth rate last year. That’s not good. And yet two-thirds of people came out to the polls saying ‘the economy is doing fine.’ So we failed to message on the economy.”
Ed Gillespie worked hard but did not embrace me or what I stand for. Don’t forget, Republicans won 4 out of 4 House seats, and with the economy doing record numbers, we will continue to win, even bigger than before!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 8, 2017
Brat said, “Obamacare premiums are going out with 40 percent increases across the state. The Democrats are running on health care, but they’re not running on Obamacare failure.” He added, “And so we failed to message at the proper level, on the national level.”
Following Gillespie’s defeat, President Trump tweeted on Tuesday, “Ed Gillespie worked hard but did not embrace me or what I stand for. Don’t forget, Republicans won 4 out of 4 House seats, and with the economy doing record numbers, we will continue to win, even bigger than before!”
Shift from Gov. '13 to '17. Dems improve in blue; Reps improve in red. pic.twitter.com/m0ZUisodsF— Nate Cohn (@Nate_Cohn) November 8, 2017
Brat acknowledged that Senate Republicans dismally failed to repeal Obamacare. Harlow observed: “If you look at the exit poll numbers, twice as many people in Virginia came out to vote in part because of opposition to this President than in support of this President.” Harlow asked, “So yes or no, say it like it is, referendum on this President or no?”
Trying to reply, Brat said, “It depends on what you mean on by — on the agenda, no.”
Cutting off Brat, Harlow said, “On the man.” Harlow said.
“I don’t think it’s ever a matter of personality. Last night, the evidence was health care and the economy growth. Economy in Virginia is failing right now and government jobs are tied to that economy. And so it’s staggering that northern Virginia can go along with such low economic growth.”
The Virginia maps of 2017 (top-Northam/Gillespie) & 2016 (bottom-Clinton/Trump) are basically the same (NYT maps) pic.twitter.com/2VqyDKARei— Jamie Dupree (@jamiedupree) November 8, 2017
On the evening of Gillespie’s defeat, Fox News Channel’s Laura Ingraham said that his failure to fully support Trump’s agenda hurt him in the end. “Remember last night, what did I say? My book, ‘Billionaire at the Barricades Populist Revolution from Reagan to Trump,’ I made this point really consistently that there is no middle ground with conservative populism. That is the wave of the future. That there is no constituency for open borders, open markets, and endless military interventionalism. There’s no constituency. So maybe Gillespie wouldn’t have won if President Trump campaigned with him. But trying to be half-in half-out with Donald Trump was never going to work. If you dip your toe in just a little bit you’re going to turn out just like Ed Gillespie did – political road kill.”