Before this race, Gillespie was as establishment as an establishment Republican could be, aligned closely with George W. Bush, who has made his distaste for Trump’s viciously divisive politics clear.He typified a coolheaded, practical approach to politics. He was more tradesman than ideologue.Until the last few months, when he utterly transformed.The impression he left on voters was an ugly one, and he and the GOP have nothing to show for it.That should scare Republicans most of all.Frank Bruni is a columnist for The New York Times.More from The Daily Gazette:Foss: Should main downtown branch of the Schenectady County Public Library reopen?EDITORIAL: Thruway tax unfair to working motoristsEDITORIAL: Urgent: Today is the last day to complete the censusEDITORIAL: Find a way to get family members into nursing homesEDITORIAL: Beware of voter intimidation Ralph Northam will be the state’s next governor.That’s a gigantic relief, because a Northam defeat would have prompted a Democratic meltdown — and rightly so.In statewide races, Virginia is increasingly blue: Hillary Clinton beat Donald Trump there by 5 percentage points a year ago.And Trump’s ceaseless assault on propriety, decency and ethical, responsible government is supposedly firing up liberals as never before. Virginia on Tuesday was the place to demonstrate that. The demonstration was convincing.Not only did Northam beat his Republican opponent, Ed Gillespie, by about 9 points — a margin of victory larger than either Clinton’s or the 2-point advantage that ushered the state’s current Democratic governor, Terry McAuliffe, into office four years ago — but Democrats also performed strongly in other Virginia races.So strongly, in fact, that one Democrat, Danica Roem, unseated a longtime Republican incumbent in the House of Delegates and will become the nation’s only openly transgender state representative.The history that she made flies squarely in the face of the bigotry and divisiveness that Trump sows. Politically speaking, there are eons between now and then, and the Virginia governor’s race had facets all its own.But there are reasons for Republicans to be very afraid.One is that Northam outperformed Clinton without being a particularly energetic, forceful candidate.Republicans should also worry that they’ve oversold themselves on the moderate-progressive divide in the Democratic Party and how severely Democrats would be hobbled by it.“If the Virginia results showed anything, it’s that ideological purity isn’t necessary to win in the Age of Trump,” Lis Smith, a Democratic operative who worked for McAuliffe, told me Tuesday night.“Northam came out as a two-time George W. Bush voter, and he failed some key liberal litmus tests. Still he won.”In rooting for a Gillespie victory, the GOP was looking for something larger: an assurance that a Republican in a swing state or swing district could find the right recipe for energizingTrump supporters without alienating Trump skeptics. Categories: Editorial, OpinionAlthough at times over the last week it seemed that Democrats were doing their damnedest to lose the Virginia gubernatorial race, they failed in that endeavor, which is to say that they succeeded at the polls. Gillespie’s answer was to keep Trump at arm’s length physically but not spiritually.So while he never — not once — had Trump stump for him in Virginia, he parroted the president’s tough talk about criminals and immigrants and denounced professional football players who didn’t stand for the national anthem.Trump didn’t cry foul during the campaign, but he did on Twitter on Tuesday night, griping that Gillespie “worked hard but did not embrace me” and showing again that he’s all too content to spar publicly with lawmakers and candidates in his own party.Republicans should be afraid for that reason as well.Beyond the returns, this was a governor’s race that made the skin crawl, which is to say that it was a sufficiently accurate mirror and microcosm of American political culture in the Age of Trump.Partisan groups and panicked candidates trafficked in overblown fears, appealed to the worst in voters and debased themselves in pursuit of their prize — reasoning, I suppose, that dignity could be recovered on the far side of ugly victory. I’m not sure that’s ever wholly true.Gillespie’s campaign “has not been just a dog whistle to the intolerant, racially resentful parts of the Republican base; it’s been a mating call,” wrote The Washington Post in a blistering — and wholly warranted — editorial that noted what many other observers were also fascinated by: how radically Trump’s ascendance and omnipresence changed the way Gillespie comported himself, a transformation with dark implications for the GOP and scary ones for America. Just when we needed a sign that his America is not all of America, Virginia came to the rescue and gave us one.And I guarantee you that the Republicans up for re-election in 2018 saw it, shuddered and will spend the next weeks and months trying to figure out just how much trouble their party is in and precisely how to repair it.Democrats are exceedingly familiar with that feeling.The returns in Virginia suggested that Trump antipathy is indeed real and that it is definitely animating.“Virginia shows that in non-red states, Trump is a heavy load for Republican candidates to carry,” the Democratic strategist Doug Sosnik told me late Tuesday night.Does it mean that Democrats can wrest one chamber of Congress from Republican control in 2018?Impossible to say.
Despite losing the weekend series to No. 9 Arizona State, the USC baseball team heads into an afternoon game at Loyola Marymount with a certain amount of good vibes partly thanks to junior left-hander Sean Silva.Silva was named the Pac-12 pitcher of the week after allowing only one hit over six innings in his second-ever career start on Friday against ASU. Silva’s strong outing set up freshman right-hander Brent Wheatley to contribute three hitless innings in relief and led the Trojans to a 5-0 victory. The combined one-hitter is a feat that hasn’t been accomplished at USC since 1996.“We’re going to need more of that from him,” USC head coach Dan Hubbs said about Silva’s start.In fact, the Trojans are going to need more of that dominance in the clutch from another pitcher, but Hubbs doesn’t know who that will be yet.Silva stepped in for the start to replace injured junior pitcher Bob Wheatley, and the resulting substitutions have left the midweek starter slot to be determined on a week-to-week basis. As of Monday afternoon, Hubbs still didn’t know who he was going to send to the mound against the Lions.“If I had to guess right now I’d say [freshman Brooks] Kriske, but I don’t know yet,” Hubbs said. “I’m working on it.”Kriske made his first start last month against Louisville and has a 3.31 ERA over just 16.1 innings of work, primarily out of the bullpen. Hubbs also tossed around Brent Wheatley’s name in consideration.In any case, USC will be testing its luck on the dish Wednesday, and the rest of the team’s strategy similarly relies on a series of ifs.“If we throw strikes and are able to mix and match, I think we’re going to be in good shape,” Hubbs said. “Sometimes you just don’t know how those Tuesdays are going to pan out.”But uncertainty and hypotheticals don’t end there. The team is currently licking its wounds after starting pitchers who surrendered dreaded “big innings.”Against Cal State Fullerton, the Trojans jumped ahead to an early 2-0 lead, only to give up six runs in the next inning in what would be a 6-4 loss. In the rubber match against the Sun Devils on Sunday, USC allowed a five-run second inning, ultimately losing 6-5. The effect that those two innings had on the outcomes of the games speaks for itself.“If we limit that to one or two runs, we win the game both times,” Hubbs said.In both “big-inning” games, the Trojans let the game slip away early but were able to fight back each time and cut the deficit to within a couple of runs. Even if it showcases the team’s resilience, those come-from-behind situations are ones Hubbs prefers to avoid, especially since most of them occur because of missed opportunities.In compliance with the ongoing theme of the season, USC left runners stranded on third base with fewer than two outs multiple times in Sunday’s loss and were only able to plate one run on a sacrifice fly with the bases loaded and no outs. For the time being, that clutch hit remains elusive.“If we get that big hit instead of that sac fly, we win the game,” Hubbs said.It’s not enough for the Trojans to say they can turn things around if everything goes right. The same could be said for any team. Instead, what USC needs is consistent performance.And there’s reason for hope. Some young players are starting to step out of that “if” shadow and show that they have more than just the potential to do well.Hubbs praised freshmen outfielders Timmy Robinson, who went 2-for-4 on Sunday and knocked in the team’s first run, and Turner Clouse for his competitive at-bats.“We’re getting a lot of production out of younger players, guys we’re going to have back next year,” Hubbs said.The keys for the game against LMU — and for the rest of the season for that matter — are to capitalize on their consistency and continue to repeat their successes.The Trojans don’t know yet which pitcher they’ll be behind on the mound tomorrow but will take the field at 3 p.m. regardless.