‘This is a tidal wave’: Democrats blow Republicans out of the water in the key bellwether state of Election Day 2017

Supporters of Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ralph Northam at an election-night rally at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia.

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Supporters of Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ralph Northam at an election-night rally at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia.
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Aaron P. Bernstein/Reuters

    Democrats swept elections in Virginia, New Jersey, and New York City on Tuesday, prompting pundits and pollsters to predict a Democratic comeback. Most notably, Democrats made dramatic gains in Virginia, a traditionally purple state that elected Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ralph Northam and flipped dozens of seats in the state legislature.

Democrats scored sweeping victories on the east coast on Tuesday, winning gubernatorial elections in New Jersey and Virginia and picking up dozens of seats in the Virginia House of Delegates.

Pollsters and pundits voiced collective shock at the strength of Democratic turnout, particularly in Virginia, which is widely viewed as a bellwether of opposition to President Donald Trump.

Democrats in Virginia elected gubernatorial candidate Ralph Northam in the first competitive statewide election since Trump took office, while simultaneously winning the lieutenant governor’s contest, reelecting their attorney general, and flipping dozens of seats in the state legislature.

“This is a tidal wave,” tweeted Dave Wasserman, a polling expert who edits the nonpartisan Cook Political Report.

Wasserman predicted on Tuesday night that Democrats would win control of Virginia’s House of Delegates. At 10:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Democrats had captured 47 seats in the House, while Republicans held 46, with seven races that most likely won’t be called until absentee and provisional ballots are counted.

The victorious Democratic delegate candidates included the country’s first openly transgender state legislator as well as Virginia’s first two Latina delegates, first openly lesbian delegate, and first female Asian-American delegate.

Many political strategists and pundits are arguing that the election results in Virginia and New Jersey are a referendum on Trump and represent a growing backlash to his administration.

“Dear Pundit Friends, please stop attributing this D landslide in VA to ‘changing demographics.’ VA hasn’t changed that much since last Nov. 8 (Hillary by 5%). The bigger explanation is a backlash to Trump and Trumpism, pure and simple,” Larry Sabato, the director of the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics, tweeted on Tuesday evening.

Meanwhile, the Democratic gubernatorial candidate Phil Murphy, a former Wall Street banker and ambassador to Germany, won in a landslide in New Jersey and will replace the outgoing two-term Republican Gov. Chris Christie, whose poll numbers are the lowest in the office’s history.

Wasserman and others argued that Democrats’ decisive wins Tuesday were an early indicator of the party’s strength entering the 2018 midterm elections.

“You can’t really look at tonight’s results and conclude that Democrats are anything other than the current favorites to pick up the U.S. House in 2018,” Wasserman tweeted.