RICHMOND, Va. — Republican Rep. Scott Taylor (Va.) called the GOP defeat in Virginia’s gubernatorial race a “referendum” on President Trump’s administration on Tuesday.
Taylor’s remark represents a break with Trump’s tweeted claim that Republican Ed Gillespie lost to Lt. Gov Ralph Northam (D) because the governor hopeful wouldn’t tie himself closely enough to Trump. Northam held an 8-point lead with 97 percent of precincts reporting.
“I don’t know how you get around that this wasn’t a referendum on the administration, I just don’t,” Taylor told reporters at Gillespie’s election night party. “Some of the very divisive rhetoric really prompted and helped usher in a really high Democratic turnout in Virginia.”
Taylor also referenced other Republican defeats in the state, where Democrats are expected to win all statewide races and gain ground in the House of Delegates.
“I know what the president tweeted. With all due respect to him I think he’s profoundly wrong in his tweet,” Taylor said. “I’m telling you that from someone who is from Virginia, who watched these races, who watched people lose tonight against opponents who are completely no name.”
Taylor said that, if Republicans lose the House of Delegates, the GOP will need a period of “self-reflection” about how Republicans holding federal offices are affecting lower-level races. “If we lose the House of Delegates, as Republicans, we really lose a firewall against Democrat governing, right? If that happens tonight, then, again, this is where my profound disagreement comes in with the president’s tweet, there has to be some self-reflection at the top and how that’s spilling over in the down ballot,” Taylor said. Taylor admitted that Trump could threaten the GOP’s House majority. When asked whether Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanBush, Romney won’t support Trump reelection: NYT Twitter joins Democrats to boost mail-in voting — here’s why Lobbying world MORE (R-Wis.) would retain his speakership if Trump doesn’t moderate, Taylor said it was an “interesting question.” “I think it will handicap the ability for that to happen,” he said. In Taylor’s mind, the big lesson is that candidates should define themselves as separate from the president if necessary. “I agree with a lot of the things the president is saying. I agree with a lot of his policies, I think a lot of people in America do. But how you talk about it is important,” he said. “And if you don’t agree with it, say it. Who the hell agrees with someone 100 percent of the time?”
In a tweet shortly after Gillespie’s defeat, Trump wrote on Twitter that Gillespie “did not embrace me or what I stand for.”
Ed Gillespie worked hard but did not embrace me or what I stand for. Don’t forget, Republicans won 4 out of 4 House seats, and with the economy doing record numbers, we will continue to win, even bigger than before!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 8, 2017
Gillespie tried to walk a fine line with his relationship with Trump during the campaign as Democrats sought to pin him to the unpopular president. Trump never campaigned with Gillespie, making him the first president since 1973 to not campaign with their Virginia gubernatorial nominee.
But Gillespie tried to shore up the GOP base with a hard-line stance on immigration and support for preserving Confederate statues, two key issues to the Trump supporters who backed a more conservative candidate in the party’s GOP gubernatorial primary.
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