In Virginia, Republican Party more to blame than Trump

The easy storyline is to blame Donald Trump for the loss — but only 34 percent of the voters labeled that a major factor in their voting. Trump’s approval rating in the exit polling was 40 percent in a state he lost by 5 points; that strongly suggests his actual national approval rating is about 42 to 45 percent, rather than in the 30s, as many national polls have been proclaiming. That’s still short of a majority but well above George Bush, who was often in the low 20s, and close to ratings that Barack Obama had much of the time.

A more likely suspect here is the Republican Party and the fratricide going on within. Asked about the Virginia Democratic Party, voters gave it a surprisingly positive 51/46, while the Republican Party was intensely disliked, garnering a 37 favorable/59 unfavorable rating. The Republican Party, therefore, is significantly lower than Donald Trump in its ratings — it was 3 points further down in favorable ratings and 2 points higher in unfavorable ratings. This 5-point swing is exactly how much worse the Republicans fared this time compared to 2016.