As results rolled in, the president and his right-wing allies scrambled to distance themselves from Gillespie, blaming his loss on his failure to go “full Trump”. But Wilson dismissed the idea that embracing Trump would have shifted the election in the Republican’s favor. “Listening to [Steve] Bannon’s call to ‘be more like Trump’ is like going to an oncologist who tells you, ‘Smoke three packs of unfiltered Camels a day,’” he said. Exit polls bolster Wilson’s argument: Politico reports that half of all voters in Virginia—where Trump’s approval rating is 40 percent—identified the president as the reason for their vote, with 34 percent of voters saying they were casting their ballots to oppose Trump. Meanwhile, Northam won 95 percent of voters who strongly disapproved of the president’s job performance.
Notably, Gillespie bled support among core Republican demographics. While Trump won white college-educated voters in 2016 by four points, Northam carried them by three. Among white women with college degrees, the Republican nominee lost by a staggering 16-point margin. Northam also won two affluent Virginia suburbs, Loudoun County and Prince William County, by double digits—20 and 23 points respectively, improving on Clinton’s margin in both. “It is hard not to stress the things that we have been seeing all over the place, in particular, this sort of suburban revolt against Donald Trump and suburban revolt against the current state of the Republican Party,” Democratic strategist and pollster Jefrey Pollock told me.