The effects of presidential elections are felt for years after their occurrence. For example, rarely does a party that wins control of both the White House and the two houses of Congress maintain that power for long, leading to legislative disputes and slowed progress on important issues.
Another component to the reverberation of presidential politics occurs in state-wide elections following the national campaigns. With Trump struggling on almost every front, Democrats see electoral windows in Virginia opening. While the moderate state went to Hillary Clinton in 2016, prevailing Democratic candidates will have to prove they are more liberal than their opposition.
In Virginia, up-start Tom Perriello (an alumnus of the Obama administration and former Congressman in VA-05), is competing strongly with Ralph Northam, someone who has had his eye on the governor's mansion for years. The establishment largely favors Northam out of loyalty, but Perriello has effectively tied up the race in the most recent polls.
As the national political landscape centers around whatever the most recent controversial decision is made by the Trump administration, gubernatorial politicians find themselves competing for the "most liberal" label. Debating about making school free and distancing past alliances with NRA is evidence of this enough, two policy positions that would have hurt Virginia democrats even only a few years ago.
“In politics, stupidity is not a handicap.”
― Napoléon Bonaparte