Virginia’s statewide election for governor and legislature is set to send shockwaves across the country on Tuesday night – if Republicans can translate an edge of enthusiasm among their main voters in victories at the polls.
Republican gubernatorial candidate Glenn Youngkin had a clear advantage in the closing weeks of the campaign. He has moved closer to Democratic candidate Terry McAuliffe in public polls, and some polls have shown the Republican leading by a few points.
In fact, the FiveThirtyEight average of all public polls showed Youngkin gained a narrow 1 point lead last Thursday. It’s within the margin of error, but it’s the first time Youngkin has led the race, and it shows he has the momentum.
A Youngkin victory would reinvigorate the Republican Party nationally, just as Democrats received a burst of enthusiasm in 2017 when current Gov. Ralph Northam won a resounding victory over Republican Ed Gillespie. The 2017 result was rightly seen as a sign of further victories to come for Democrats in the 2018 midterm election.
The Virginie effect did not disappoint four years ago. Northam won because voters who graduated from the University of Northern Virginia, Richmond and the Virginia Beach area staged a massive protest vote against Trump, helping Democrats move closer to a majority in the legislature of the United States. State, which they cemented two years later in 2019.
This Virginia anti-Trump vote took place nationwide in 2018. The national midterm elections saw the highest turnout in over 100 years for a non-presidential election, and Democrats took the lead. control of the House of Representatives.
This pattern continued in 2020, but with a twist. There was still a strong anti-Trump sentiment, and the former reality TV star was easily defeated by Joe Biden in the popular vote. Biden also triumphed in Virginia by 10 percentage points after Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton won the state by 5 points in 2016.
But Republicans in Congress did better than expected in 2020, as part of the electorate registered unease with items on the Democratic agenda.
Now that Trump is no longer in office, Youngkin has a chance to capitalize on his absence by winning over suburban voters who couldn’t stand President Trump but were also put off by Democrats.
Biden’s poll numbers fell over the summer and have not recovered. Democrats are pushing for a massive $ 1.75 trillion social policy bill that pleases their grassroots but could affect budget moderates, and yet they haven’t been able to pass this bill or a bill on it. infrastructure despite months of effort.
Grassroots Democratic voters are deflated by inaction in Congress, and more casual voters who tend to Democrat are more apathetic with Trump’s departure. If Youngkin wins on Tuesday night, Republicans will seek to regain control of the House in 2022, and possibly the Senate as well.
McAuliffe tried to tie Youngkin to Trump at every opportunity, and that was one of the key dynamics of the race. Youngkin walked on the right track in seeking to retain Republican voters backing Trump, but also kept his distance from the former president. Trump did not campaign in Virginia for Youngkin. And Youngkin, a former private equity CEO, neither looks nor resembles Trump.
Still, Youngkin made several overtures to the Trump crowd. He didn’t recognize that Biden was a legitimate president until after he won the Republican nomination last May, and while avoiding answering questions about the 2020 election directly, he also did a task force on electoral integrity the centerpiece of his primary campaign.
Although Youngkin has since said he would have voted to certify Biden’s victory, the task force has been a signal to Trump supporters who believe the former president’s lies about stealing the 2020 election have him. been stolen.
And Trump has also injected himself into the race, unable to stay away from a state where 54% of those polled earlier this year said he was worse than most presidents.
Trump was scheduled to call a campaign event Monday night that Youngkin did not attend, and Trump criticized Youngkin for not embracing him more closely. At the same time, Trump reiterated Monday that Youngkin had his “complete and utter endorsement” in a McAuliffe campaign release watched to use to his advantage.
Trump also called a bizarre campaign event hosted by Youngkin supporters in October, in which attendees recited the pledge of allegiance to a flag that organizers said was carried on January 6 in Washington, DC, when Trump supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol and led a violent insurgency in an attempt to overturn the 2020 election.
The other key dynamic has been Youngkin’s ability to tap into the anger of suburban voters over a mix of public school-related topics, which arose out of frustration during the COVID-19 pandemic over distance learning. Last summer, organized conservative groups protested at school board meetings against mask warrants and the way public schools teach racial issues.
At the end of September, McAuliffe’s comment in a debate – “I don’t think parents should tell schools what to teach” – fell like a lit match in a powder keg. Youngkin drew his campaign energy from the school protest movement, organized by right-wing activists. In recent weeks, Youngkin has called his events “Parents Matter” gatherings.
And then, in the second half of October, Youngkin also called for an investigation into the Loudoun County School Board after a student was discovered to have sexually assaulted two different classmates in the previous months. As details emerged, the story got more complicated, but Youngkin used the outrage over the incidents to further propel his candidacy.
Democrats are also worried about the low turnout of black Virginians and the possibility that Princess Blanding, a left-wing one-third candidate, could hijack just enough votes from McAuliffe to give Youngkin a victory.
But while Youngkin may have the edge at the end of the election, it’s also possible that the state’s long early voting period could help Democrats close any gap on election day. Democrats tend to be more likely than Republicans to benefit from early voting, which began in Virginia on September 17 – when McAuliffe was still leading the polls.
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