Democrats suffered a devastating defeat in Virginia’s gubernatorial race, further eroding President BidenJoe Biden Five Takeaways from a Bleak Night for Democrats Youngkin Wins Virginia Governor’s Race Michelle Wu Chosen as Boston’s First Mayor MOREpolitical position and reinforcement Donald trumpDonald Trump Republicans are poised to sweep Virginia, wowing Democrats Five takeaways from a bleak night for Democrats New Jersey’s gubernatorial race is too close to call for MOREcontinuous influence.
Republican Glenn Youngkin, a private equity executive, defeated former Gov. Terry McAuliffe in a state that Biden easily surpassed last year and that Democrats have ruled for most of this century. Youngkin basically hugged Trump, who, while out of state, made numerous appeals in recent days.
Surprisingly, the New Jersey gubernatorial race was nearly dead. Even if incumbent Governor Phil Murphy wins (much of the remaining votes are in Democratic counties), the race was not supposed to be close. Instead, Republicans significantly improved their vote in the suburbs, a promising omen for them in next year’s Congressional elections.
In general, the perceived message yesterday may be that the Democrats have moved too aggressively to the left.
Biden’s declining popularity and infighting and the inability of Congressional Democrats, thus far, to pass the promised legislation contributed to McAuliffe’s defeat. The Democratic Congress can still pass a major national infrastructure and social spending bill. The president, however, has less influence – bear witness that he did his best for McAuliffe, who had served a previous term as governor.
Youngkin’s victory adds to Republican optimism about the year ahead and the conviction that any political collateral damage from the lie that the last presidential election was stolen, or the Trump-inspired Jan.6 mob assault on Capitol Hill , has dissipated.
Efforts by Democrats to make the election a referendum on Trump, to link Youngkin to that association, failed. Trump, while not campaigning with Youngkin, loudly proclaimed his support for the Republican candidate and bolstered his base in a state where he was hit twice. Youngkin ran even better than expected in more rural Republican areas, while cutting back on the strength of the Democrats in the suburbs.
Unsurprisingly, the former president takes credit for the result.
The campaign can be a model for Republicans in competitive races: run like a less inflammatory Trump, still identifying with him and his policies.
That was Youngkin, trying to present himself as a respectable Trump, associating himself with most of his views, but not his vitriol. Youngkin acknowledged that Biden won the presidency, but called for election audits.
He initially highlighted his success as a former co-CEO of the large private equity firm, Carlyle, although Bloomberg News reported that in reality he “flamed”As co-CEO and was replaced when he decided to run for governor.
As the campaign progressed, Youngkin focused more on hot topics, such as weapons, and openly played the race card while denounced the teaching of the so-called critical theory of race, which is not actually taught in Virginia public schools. He took advantage of a verbal mistake by McAuliffe that parents shouldn’t “tell schools what they should teach.” She posted a commercial for a supporter who did not want the school to require her son to read Toni Morrison’s acclaimed novel, “Beloved,” about the agonies of a slave.
Youngkin was caught privately telling a conservative group that he would act aggressively to roll back abortion rights: but he wouldn’t talk about it until after he was elected. He also navigated a delicate line on the COVID pandemic, supporting vaccines while opposing the mandates.
By vowing to cut taxes and slash regulations, Youngkin promises to be a very business-friendly governor. The state already gets high marks for being business friendly.
The implications of this race for next year’s midterms are already apparent. It fuels the feeling that 2022 will be a Republican year; Democrats fear that will affect the recruitment of candidates for open or competitive seats in the House. The prospect of being a majority is more attractive.
This is still the best time to get new candidates, with the completion of redistricting in most states.
The political climate could affect retirements, too: 12 House Democrats have said they will not run for reelection, including several in competitive districts; four seek a higher position; So far, eight House Republicans plan not to seek another term.
In Virginia, this is the fifth time in the past six elections that the non-White House party has won the governor’s race one year after the presidential race. Ironically, the only exception was in 2013 when McAuliffe was first elected.
The record is a bit more mixed in serving as a harbinger of the midterm elections. In three of the last five gubernatorial elections, the winning party has also triumphed in the next congressional elections.
Al Hunt is the former executive editor of Bloomberg News. He previously served as a reporter, bureau chief, and Washington editor of the Wall Street Journal. For nearly a quarter century he wrote a column on politics for The Wall Street Journal, then The International New York Times, and Bloomberg View. He hosts Political war room with James Carville. Follow him on Twitter @AlHuntDC.