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Conservatives Learn the Wrong Lesson From GOP Defeat in Virginia

Conservatives have come up with a number of “explanations” for Ed Gillespie’s loss.

Ann Coulter speaks at Politicon on June 25, 2016 in Pasadena, California. (Photo: Gage Skidmore)

If the reaction from prominent right-wing media figures is any indication, conservatives are having a very hard time coping with the resounding loss of Republican candidate Ed Gillespie in the Virginia gubernatorial election on Tuesday.

We can start with Ann Coulter.

Right-wing talk show host Laura Ingraham echoed those thoughts, telling her audience on Tuesday night, “Gillespie never jumped on board the Trump train. He’s an old Bush hand. I think he gave it his best shot. He is who he is — not a populist conservative.”

Sean Moran of Breitbart had a similar take.

“Virginia Republican gubernatorial candidate Ed Gillespie’s loss to Ralph Northam represents a repudiation of the Republican establishment; Gillespie lost by more points than Donald Trump and Ken Cuccinelli,” Moran wrote on Wednesday.

Other conservative pundits have tried to paint the Republican disaster in Virginia as a question of demographics rather than anything specific about Trump.

“Tuesday night’s slaughter is more of a representation of Virginia’s rapidly changing demographics have made it a solid blue state — regardless of Trump,” wrote Scott Greer of The Daily Caller.

Similarly, Doug Schoen of Fox News wrote that Virginia is now a “seemingly reliable blue state,” attributing Gillespie’s loss to the fact that minorities turned out in large numbers for Democratic candidate Ralph Northam. Schoen did acknowledge that “to the extent President Trump was a factor in the election, he was a major negative to Gillespie’s candidacy.”

Among Republican politicians, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan told an audience on Wednesday, “It doesn’t change my reading of the current moment.”

He added, “I fundamentally believe, when we deliver on comprehensive tax reform and tax relief . . . I think that’s going to bear fruit politically, but most importantly it’s going to help people.”

Similarly, a source close to Trump’s political team told the conservative newspaper The Washington Examiner that both Gillespie’s loss and that of Kim Guadagno, the Republican gubernatorial candidate in New Jersey, could be attributed to “local dynamics” and “history.”

“These are blue states that the president did not win last year. This is not about the president,” the source told the Examiner.

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