Donald Trump suffered a humbling triple defeat, with Democrats winning high-profile state and mayoral elections, dousing any exuberance on Wednesday’s anniversary of his dramatic election win and underscoring the struggles he faces as an unpopular president.
The results from Tuesday night elections amount to a sweeping repudiation of what critics have called Trump’s politics of division, and a test of his influence ahead of electoral battles looming on the state and national level.
The most damaging defeat was in Virginia, a state bordering Washington seen as a bellwether for national politics with the country gearing up for the 2018 congressional elections and the next presidential contest in 2020.
The Virginia governor’s race had all the makings of a nail-biter, but in the end, Lieutenant Governor Ralph Northam trounced his Republican rival Ed Gillespie by an unexpectedly wide nine percentage points in the southern battleground state.
Also on Tuesday, voters in Maine on Tuesday approved a ballot initiative to expand the state’s Medicaid program under Obamacare.
In New Jersey, Democrat Phil Murphy reclaimed the governorship following eight years of Republican Governor Chris Christie, a onetime ally of Trump.
And in New York, progressive Mayor Bill de Blasio rode a wave of hometown distaste for Trump to cruise to re-election in America’s most populous city.
The Democratic mayor scored a decisive victory over his Republican opponent, state Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis, to secure a second four-year term.
A progressive liberal, de Blasio, in the past week campaigned with U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, an independent.
The mayor has positioned himself as one of the most vocal critics of Donald Trump, who has received strong disapproval ratings from voters in his native city.
Murphy and Northam painted their wins as rejections of the polarization that to a large extent characterized Trump’s 2016 campaign and much of his first year in the White House.
‘Tonight, New Jersey sent an unmistakable message to the entire nation: we are better than this,’ Murphy declared.
The results mark a revival of political fortunes for the Democratic Party, which had failed to win a number of previous special elections in several states this year triggering concern about how to counter Trump’s influence in US politics.
‘This is a referendum on American values,’ Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez said on CNN, speaking of the Tuesday night sweep.
An upset victory for Gillespie would have served to validate Trump’s aggressive style, and form a blueprint for how mainstream Republicans can embrace Trump issues without necessarily embracing the controversial man himself.