Haslam: Virginia election is ‘a wake up call’ for GOP governors

Excerpt from a New York Times report datelined Austin, Texas:

For nearly a decade, meetings of the Republican Governors Association were buoyant, even giddy, affairs, as the party — lifted by enormous political donations and a backlash against the Obama administration — achieved overwhelming control of state governments.

But a sense of foreboding hung over the group’s gathering in Austin this past week, as President Trump’s unpopularity and Republicans’ unexpectedly drastic losses in elections earlier this month in Virginia, New Jersey, and suburbs from Philadelphia to Seattle raised the specter of a political reckoning in 2018.

“I do think Virginia was a wake-up call,” said Governor Bill Haslam of Tennessee, who took over here as chairman of the governors association. “There’s a pretty strong message there. When Republicans lose white married women, that’s a strong message.”

…What Republicans agree on is that their candidates must avoid the contortions of Ed Gillespie, their Virginia nominee for governor, who embraced Mr. Trump’s divisive messages on immigration, crime and Confederate “heritage” but danced inartfully around whether he actually supported the president.

“You can’t be halfway in and halfway out,” said Gov. Phil Bryant of Mississippi, a conservative and admirer of Mr. Trump.

Mr. Haslam, a more centrist voice who did not vote for Mr. Trump, agreed. “If you try to wear somebody else’s clothes, they never fit,” he said.

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