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- The Democratic wave of victories in Virginia and New Jersey could frighten Republicans in tough districts ahead of the 2018 cycle. Former National Republican Congressional Committee chairman Greg Walden stressed that each race is different, but Republicans should start preparing for a tough election.
WASHINGTON – The Democratic wave of electoral victories Tuesday night has some Republicans pausing to figure out the best course forward, fearing the elections could be a bellweather for the upcoming 2018 midterms.
“I think it’s cause for pause and concern,” said Oregon Rep. Greg Walden, who chaired the House Republicans’ campaign arm in 2016. “And I think we all should be aware that what kind of election cycle we’re going into is different than the last one and the one before that and there’s a way to deal with it.”
Walden told Business Insider that Republicans “have to be prepared for a different turnout model and a different cycle than we saw in ’16 or in ’14,” noting the varying demographics across the country.
“Each one of these is different, but so are the districts and so are the races,” he said. “It’s instructive to look at what happened and where it happened. You have to dig into the data and see is this some localized issue in each of these races, is it something broader than that.”
Walden added that a “model congressional race” for addressing the loss of GOP support in Tuesday’s Virginia elections with suburban voters was the Georgia special election in June, between Democrat Jon Ossoff and Republican Karen Handel. The special election, which Handel won, was the most expensive House race in history between the two candidates.
Rep. Scott Taylor, a Virginia Republican, told The New York Times that President Donald Trump’s “divisive rhetoric” was to blame for the widespread Republican defeat on Tuesday. He said he knew candidates who lost to Democrats he’d never even heard of.
“I do believe that this is a referendum on this administration,” Taylor said. “Democrats turned out tonight, but I’m pretty sure there were some Republicans who spoke loudly and clearly tonight as well.”
But not all Republicans are worried.
California Rep. Darrell Issa, who narrowly won last year, told Business Insider that Virginia “was a state that had very different results for Trump not long ago,” adding he was already proven to be a candidate with broad appeal.
“My state, my district went 8 points for Hillary so I’ve already dealt with a district that for the first time ever, Orange County, went Democratic, and yet they still crossed over and voted for me,” Issa said. “So my view is that when you deal with states that went one way and may go another, it’s a little different than California where four million more people voted for Hillary than voted for Trump.”
Virginia Rep. Barbara Comstock, whose district showed massive shifts in voter preference from Republican to Democrat, told Business Insider she will remain focused on the same message that has helped her win in the past.
“The election is a year ahead,” Comstock said. “It’s a lifetime. I’m going to focus on the priorities and things that I said I would run on, which is we’re working on tax cuts for my district, we’re working on some transportation solutions, and a lot of the high tech community that I’m working on.”
However, Iowa Rep. Steve King was largely unfazed by the Democrats’ performances in Virginia and New Jersey.
“The election that happened last night maybe indicates some things but this was in Democrat territory with Democrat candidates,” King said. “And I think President Trump fared better than the Republican candidates did in the same districts just a year ago.”
But King also warned that a “significant loss of seats” could prompt changes to the Republican leadership.
Republicans lost big on Election Day
Political forecasters determined that Election Day 2017 was bad news for Trump.
As the results of Tuesday’s election in Virginia began to stream in, political pundits and observers noted the somewhat surprising strength of the Democratic victory in the state. Virginia governor-elect Ralph Northam, a Democrat, beat his Republican opponent Ed Gillespie by eight percentage points, a larger margin than many recent public polls had predicted, while Democrats unexpectedly took control of the Virginia House, picking up 14 seats.
And data collected by pollsters after the election showed how antipathy to the president seemingly shaped a mini-wave of Democratic victories in Virginia.