The Atlantic Politics Daily: Virginia Is for Lovers (of Off-Year Elections)

Does the Democratic party still have the momentum from the midterms? Virginia is a pivotal test. Plus: the history behind sports teams visiting the White House

It’s Monday, November 4. The U.S. begins a formal withdrawal from the Paris climate agreement, and House investigators released a first batch of transcripts of depositions, taken as part of the impeachment inquiry.

In today’s newsletter: ¶ People. Virginia Democrats. ¶ Places. Richmond, the White House, New York. ¶ Things. A MAGA hat on a baseball player.


(Collage by The Atlantic)

About that “blue wave” …

Going into 2020, does the Democratic party still have the momentum from the midterms?

Tuesday is the first real big test of that question, as Virginia holds statehouse elections that could turn what was once a Republican stronghold into an all-blue state.

Democrats need just one seat in both chambers of the General Assembly to claim that so-called trifecta: Control of the governor’s mansion, plus majorities in the bicameral legislature.

That prospect should have Democrats salivating. But there’s a stain on the house. Governor Ralph Northam and Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax were each embroiled in major, separate controversies just this past February. (They all stuck around.)

My colleague Russell Berman went to Richmond, Virginia in October to make sense of Democrats’ plans to contain any fallout from those scandals:

“It’s a bit too on the nose … The [Robert E.] Lee statue is centered in a traffic circle, which means drivers literally have to go around this reminder of a disgraced era to get where they’re going. That is also an apt metaphor for the Democratic Party in Virginia.”

Read Russell’s full story from on the ground here.

Whether Democrats can actually notch the coveted trifecta will depend on the suburbs—which have turned against Republicans in the Trump era both in Virginia and nationwide.

The GOP’s hemorrhaging of votes in the suburbs is having major electoral ramifications for the party. My colleague Ronald Brownstein—who can make sense out of polls like no other—writes:

In several key state races since Trump’s election—such as governor’s races in Virginia, Wisconsin, and Michigan—Republican candidates amassed huge margins in small towns and rural areas only to lose because their support cratered in suburban areas around the largest urban centers.

Even in Texas [in 2008], Republican Senator Ted Cruz last year needed a huge rural advantage to just barely survive former Democratic Representative Beto O’Rourke’s nearly 800,000-vote edge in the state’s five largest counties.

Read Ron’s electoral-map analysis here.



President Donald Trump has “moved” out of New York.

He reportedly filed for permanent residence in Palm Beach a couple of months ago. A former Seinfeld writer, who grew up two miles from Trump in Queens, argues that Trump never really qualified as a true New Yorker anyway:

In his 70 years as a resident, his feet barely touched pavement. He probably still thinks the subway takes tokens. He probably never waited in line for a movie, got sick on street-fair Belgian waffles, or felt the thrill of beating everyone to a cab in the rain. He never had a vicious landlord or a predatory boss, and he sure as hell never had the ultimate New York experience of suffering in silence.

Read Peter Mehlman’s full essay here.

+ Trump and New York state have had a contentious relationship. One recent sticking point: his tax returns.


¶ Medicare for All, D.C. and Puerto Rico statehood, a wealth tax on the uber-rich. In light of recent polling showing that Trump is winning in key battleground states, Jonathan Chait skewers Democrats who are championing more unpopular policies as if Trump’s defeat in 2020 were a shoo-in rather than an uphill battle.
—Saahil Desai, an editor on our politics desk

¶ You’ve heard Mayor Pete is on the rise. You’ve heard he’s open about his identity on the campaign trail. One of the more interesting analyses I’ve read recently about the candidate comes from Frank Bruni, who asks outright whether Americans are really prepared to elect a gay man to the highest office in America.
Christian Paz, a fellow on our politics desk



While the president may have joked about breaking term limits to be president beyond constitutional boundaries, there will come a time when America must move from Trump, David Frum writes. What then?

Having lived through all this, will Democrats conclude that what’s called for is a return to norms and normality? Or will they conclude that with opponents like these and with rules that are stacked against them, norms are for suckers? They might, quite plausibly, conclude the latter, imposing policies popular only among the far left via executive order or other means—thereby plunging the political system into an even deeper crisis in Trump’s aftermath. If neither side abides by the rules of democracy, then democracy effectively ceases to exist.

Read the full essay here.



The Washington Nationals catcher Kurt Suzuki surprised a White House crowd during the World Series champion team’s White House visit today.

Why do championship sports teams visit the White House anyway? Our resident historian and Ideas editor Yoni Appelbaum looks at the first White House visit by a champion sports team.


Today’s edition of our daily newsletter of political ideas and arguments was written by Saahil Desai and Christian Paz, and edited by Shan Wang.

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