Answer: Reality took a big bite out of Trump's attitude.
The chomp was taken by the voters who gave Democrat Ralph Northam a landslide victory of almost 9%. Virginians also favored Democrats for lieutenant governor, attorney general, and erased the GOP's 66-34 advantage in the state Legislature.
Trump's response, to blame Gillespie, was the latest example of how he responds to reality with yet more denial. While most in politics recognized the results in Virginia as a repudiation of the President,
Trump remained in his own universe. It's a place he had stubbornly occupied, despite other reality bites, since assuming office in January.
Beginning with the sparse turnout at his inauguration, which White House staff insisted was a vast throng, Trump has practiced denial like a champion even in the face of irrefutable facts. The examples are many, but a small number considered in chronological order make the point well.
Although it seems like ages ago, it was only last January when President Trump's order barring visitors
from seven Muslim-majority countries was suddenly announced. "It's working out very nicely," he said
on the weekend when it was put into force. "You see it in the airports."
In reality, all was chaos at the major arrival hubs for airlines serving the named countries. Thousands of protesters gathered inside and outside terminals. Lawyers rushed to court to block Trump's orders and even Theresa May, Prime Minister of America's most reliable ally, Great Britain, disagreed
with the ban. The order, and two subsequent ones, were blocked by federal judges
Next came the revelations that ended Michael Flynn's brief tenure as his national security adviser. Trump insisted
, despite mounting evidence, that Flynn was a "wonderful man." The real problem, according to Trump, was that "he has been treated very, very unfairly by the media, as I call it, the fake media in many cases." In fact Flynn had misled others in the administration about his recent contacts with Russian officials and he has been under scrutiny by special counsel Robert Mueller.
Flynn's exit would be followed by the departure of other people Trump regarded highly, including Sean Spicer, Reince Priebus, Anthony Scaramucci, Steve Bannon, Tom Price and Sebastian Gorka. Amid all the turmoil, on the day he appointed retired Marine Gen. John Kelly to be his chief of staff, he insisted
"No WH [White House] chaos!"
As reality revealed a White House in disarray, Trump's policy plans didn't fare much better. Candidate Trump promised
to "repeal and replace" Obamacare immediately. Immediately didn't happen, but as late as March 7 he said, "Our wonderful new Healthcare Bill is now out for review and negotiation. ObamaCare is a complete and total disaster - is imploding fast!" By March 24, the facts of life in Congress led Trump and House leaders to withdraw the proposal. Eight months later, Obamacare remains the law of the land and collapse is not at hand.
Bizarrely, Trump has even battled reality when things have gone well for him. In June he had a friendly meeting with the President of South Korea and his aides were hoping an appearance at the Department of Energy would boost serious policies. Instead he used the opportunity to complain of "fake news" and took to Twitter once again to rant
about TV hosts Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski. Calling them "Low I.Q. Crazy Mika" and "Psycho Joe," the President drew attention to his own intellectual and mental condition and away from his more presidential acts.
Any list of Trump collisions with reality must also include the commission on voter fraud that is addressing a nonexistent problem, Mexico's refusal to pay for a border wall he said it would fund, a court ruling that blocked his attempt to ban transgender troops
from the military, his assertion that good people were among neo-Nazis rallying in Charlottesville, Virginia, and his counter-factual claim
after Hurricane Maria that "San Juan mayor and others haven't pitched in with Puerto Rico relief."
Looming over all the problems listed here has been, of course, the issue of Russian interference in the 2016 election. Throughout his time in office, Trump has insisted the matter is "fake news" and that no one in his campaign or administration colluded with Russian operatives. Reality has bitten him time and again as evidence connecting members of his campaign team -- Michael Flynn, Jeff Sessions, Donald Trump Jr., Paul Manafort, George Papadopoulos, and Carter Page -- has emerged in the press and in court filings made by independent counsel Robert Mueller.
Like some demented version of a look-on-the-bright-side pitchman, the President has insisted we see the world from his point of view, where the landscape is full of accomplishments and devoid of problems. For a while it seemed as if a great many Americans were willing to stand where Trump stands and agree to see what he sees.
Then came election night in Virginia
and a result that left no doubt. CNN exit polling found voters considered the election a referendum on Trump and their decision reflected the President's plummeting approval figures. More and more it seems the President stands alone, wounded by reality and bleeding credibility.