Trump effect looms large over bellweather Virginia race

For all the turbulence in US politics over the last 12 dramatic months, it appears opinion has barely changed. A hypothetical poll taken last week suggests a rematch between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton would more or less produce a tie, with the Washington Post concluding the former would probably win again.

Considering all the troubles Trump has endured in the meantime, that makes grim reading for the Democrats and confirms a painful lesson learnt last November. That, no matter how much Trump alienates a majority of Americans, this President’s historically low approval ratings remain significantly lower than his potential vote share, especially if the Democrats can’t find a popular candidate of their own.

Tightening polls are fraying Democrat nerves

It would be unfair to compare Ralph Northam to the damaged, scandal-ridden Clinton, but the Democrat candidate to be the Next Governor of Virginia is similarly failing to inspire. From earlier estimates of a double-digit lead in a state that appeared to be inevitably shifting towards his party, Northam’s average lead is down to just 3.3%. Given that they have significantly undershot expectations in past Virginia contests, Democrats are right to be worried.

Tonight’s race offers a fascinating insight into the current state of US politics, and will be widely interpreted as a pointer towards future national contests. Nine of the last ten Virginia gubernatorial races here went against the White House incumbent, with Terry McAuliffe breaking the run under Obama last time.

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