Election Day 2017: What Happened & What Does it Mean?

Image: Ralph Northam
Virginia Gov.-elect, Ralph Northam gestures during a news conference at the Capitol in Richmond, Va., Wednesday, Nov. 8, 2017. Northam defeated Republican Ed Gillespie in Tuesday's election. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)Steve Helber / AP

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By Megan Neunan

The burning question since Election Day, 2016 has been whether Donald Trump was a historical accident or harbinger for the direction and dominance of the Republican Party.

One day after decisive Democratic victories in key state races, Mark Murray joined Chuck Todd to geek out over the implications, during the latest episode of 1947: The Meet the Press Podcast.

“I think this election showed that how Donald Trump defied gravity in 2016, well, gravity still exists,” Murray said.

The results of this race marked a return to at least one political norm, according to Murray: an unpopular president dragged his party down. Virginia voters who disapprove of the job Trump has done as president overwhelmingly broke for Democrat Ralph Northam over Republican Ed Gillespie: 87 percent to 11 percent.

In other words, Trump may not be Teflon and Republicans may have to answer for his poor approval rating in upcoming contests.

Party identification in the Virginia exit poll data says a lot about the state of the parties: 41 percent of voters identified as Democrats, 30 percent as Republicans and 28 percent as Independents. In 2014, those numbers were 36 percent Democrat, 30 percent Republican and 28 Independent or something else. That’s a five-point bump for Democrats in a swing state.

“If Gillespie is winning Independents and losing a race by double digits, it means those Independents, the only ones left, are Republicans who don’t want to identify as Republican,” Todd explained.

Party ID breakdown was further proof that voters are leaning toward the generic Democratic agenda and demographic shifts may provide an additional boost to Democrats.

But Murray sounds a note of caution. “We have a long way to go,” until 2018.