And issues like immigration continue to split the party between more moderate candidates, like Northam, on one side, and more strident activists on the left. In one sign of those tensions, Northam's election night celebration was temporarily disrupted by protesters carrying a sign reading "Sanctuary for All," a reference to the Northam campaign's equivocation on supporting so-called sanctuary cities in the last weeks before the election.
Still, Republicans clearly took the worst of it on Election Day 2017, and for those studying the ashes there was no clear path to reversing the forces that created Tuesday's defeats.
Trump succeeded in 2016 by maximizing anger at politics as usual and distaste for his Democratic opponent. But since his election, he has continued to stoke that anger, keeping his most ardent backers mobilized, but taking no steps to widen his support.
For Republicans, the president's widespread unpopularity is a problem without a clear solution.
"The ball is chained around their ankles whether they want it to be or not," Kidd said.
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