The Virginia governor’s race was a referendum on Trump, and he lost. Badly.

It is worth beginning with what would have been written if Ed Gillespie had won Virginia’s gubernatorial race. Gillespie was the quintessential establishment Republican: senior advisor to President George W. Bush, chairman of the Republican National Committee, founder of a bipartisan lobbying firm. And he was losing.

Then he embraced Trumpism. He began running bizarre, fearmongering ads about Hispanic gangs and sanctuary cities — and all this in a state that doesn’t even have sanctuary cities. Gillespie, New York Magazine’s Jonathan Chait wrote, had become “the avatar of the new Trumpist party.” The polls narrowed, Democrats panicked, Trumpists began celebrating.

Two days ago, Steve Bannon, Donald Trump’s former chief strategist, told the New York Times that Gillespie had “closed an enthusiasm gap by rallying around the Trump agenda…in Gillespie’s case, Trumpism without Trump can show the way forward. If that’s the case, Democrats better be very, very worried.”

I’ll come clean: I had that quote saved for my piece if Democrat Ralph Northram lost. I also had this one, from Corey Stewart, the Trumpist candidate who almost toppled Gillespie in the GOP primary: “If Gillespie wins it shows that the Trump message works.”

Here, then, is the story you would have read in every paper and seen on every news show if Gillespie had triumphed: Trumpism could work without Trump. Gillespie had taken Trump’s culture-war appeal, his fear of immigrants and crime and diversity and disorder, and severed it from Trump’s erratic personal behavior: there was no Access Hollywood tape, no bizarre early-morning tweetstorms, no fear that the candidate was professionally or temperamentally qualified for the job he sought. And that allowed Gillespie to do what Trump couldn’t: he had won Virginia.

Except none of that happened. Gillespie Read More Here