Lee Drutmanwrote for the New York Times about how Democrats can best prepare for 2018.
Since most of the voters are in all three subgroups (and the national electorate, too) lean left economically, a strong progressive economic message would almost certainly help Democrats. Moving right on economics, by contrast, will not help Democrats with any of these voters and could even risk losing some, demoralizing an energized base, especially younger voters.
On culture, there’s also not a whole lot to be gained by triangulating, particularly if Democrats want to mobilize the Obama-Other category of voters. Besides, if the racially tinged campaign of Mr. Northam’s opponent, Ed Gillespie, is indeed a preview of how Republicans plan to run in 2018, Democrats are going to have a hard time neutralizing cultural issues, and they’re going to struggle to win over rural voters who are motivated by these issues.
Their best bet will be to offer a sharper economic message, which offers at least some possibility of gain among Obama-Trump voters and Obama-Other voters, with little risk of alienating Romney-Clinton voters.
The Virginia results suggest Democrats still might also be able to expand their base without attempting to reach these voters with a new economic populism — results that will certainly give comfort to the donor class of the party that gets nervous every time Bernie Sanders begins talking. The inevitable pendulum swing against the Republican Party, Mr. Trump’s deep unpopularity, an energized electorate and the wave of Republican congressional retirements — and the slow but steady demographic shift toward a younger, more diverse electorate — will all give Democrats an advantage that they can ride mostly just by being Democrats and not doing stupid things.