Previous President TrumpDonald Trump Democrats pressed panic button after Virginia collapse Department of Defense and Homeland Security Justice seeks nearly four-year sentence for former MMA fighter who struck officer on January 6 MORE acclaimed republican Glenn youngkinGlenn Youngkin Democrats must stop infighting and four other lessons from the 2021 election Democrats feel new urgency on Biden’s agenda after Virginia defeat Republican optimism soars over Democratic debacle MOREThe victory in Virginia was a triumph, but the most compelling case is that his fortune was affected by the race for governor.
The exhaustion of the four separate statements issued by Trump between Tuesday night and Wednesday morning claiming credit for the victory betrayed an insecurity.
Youngkin defeating the Democrat Terry McAuliffeTerry McAuliffe Democrats must stop infighting and four other lessons from the 2021 election Democrats feel new urgency on Biden’s agenda after Virginia defeat Republican optimism soars over Democratic debacle MORE it has provided Republicans with a new template for victory. The plan does not require repudiating the former president, but it also does not require kissing Trump’s ring.
In victory, Youngkin has provided an explosion of hope to those in the Republican Party who want to leave Trump behind.
“Youngkin was hitting Donald Trump hard,” former Rep. Charles Dent (R-Pa.) Told this column on Wednesday. Dent, a moderate, retired in the middle of the Trump presidency. “Youngkin won by ignoring Trump and appealing to swing voters in a more traditional and thoughtful way.”
Other Republicans reacted to Youngkin’s victory in more stark and personal terms.
“I think there is a new template, and that is why I am personally excited,” said Jean Card, who served as a speechwriter in the administration of President George W. Bush. “I have been a Republican my entire adult life, but I did not vote for Trump. I thought he was a bad leader for the Republican Party; It made me worry about the future of the party. And now there is another way. “
The excitement in Trump’s skeptical circles must be tempered by other realities.
Right now, Trump remains the big favorite to win the Republican presidential nomination in 2024 if he chooses to run.
Strident anti-Trump voices within the Republican Party have been sidelined. And Youngkin’s victory came in a state bordering the District of Columbia, just 10 months after Trump incited an insurrection in the United States Capitol.
Youngkin also accepted Trump’s endorsement and was careful not to directly alienate the former president’s supporters.
But on the other hand, Youngkin stayed away from Trump and never campaigned alongside him in the general election. When Trump’s allies staged a flag-waved event at the rally that immediately preceded the Capitol riot, Youngkin called the decision “bizarre and wrong.”
Just as important, Youngkin was the polar opposite of Trump in tone and demeanor.
A personable and level-headed figure, his campaign leaned toward his success in the corporate world and projected an image of him as a harmless father and husband.
“He did not belittle the [former] President, but Youngkin spoke to voters in Virginia in a very engaging way, ”said Brad Blakeman, another veteran of the George W. Bush administration. “It was not divisive. He was nice, he wasn’t bad, and he acted like a gentleman. “
The success of that effort meant that McAuliffe’s efforts to brand Youngkin as an acolyte and quasi-racist of Trump failed.
It also allowed Youngkin to perform strongly with demographics that recoiled from Trump’s excesses.
Youngkin amassed a 9-point lead with independent voters, according to exit polls. Trump had lost those voters to Biden by nearly 20 points last year. Youngkin cut McAuliffe’s lead among women to 6 points, while Biden had led Commonwealth voters by 23 points.
The impact among some subgroups was even more surprising. Youngkin beat white women without college degrees by 50 points, while Trump’s lead was just 12 points.
The effect of all those changes was felt both geographically and demographically: Youngkin was much stronger than Trump in the populous suburbs of Northern Virginia. It still lost the region, but by a significantly smaller margin.
But to the surprise of many observers, Youngkin’s lukewarm approach to Trump had no detrimental effect in conservative rural Southwest Virginia counties, where support for him equaled and in many cases exceeded Trump’s 2020 margins.
“The conventional wisdom is that you have to have Donald Trump to attract those voters. Youngkin has denied that, “said Republican strategist Dan Judy.
But Judy said it was the difference between Youngkin’s appeal to middle voters and Trump’s toxicity to those same groups that was the most important conclusion.
“It’s encouraging to me because one of the big questions, after Trump, was whether we had lost some voters forever, especially… the suburban women who defected from the GOP en masse over the past five years. Can we get them back? For Glenn Youngkin, at least, the answer was a pretty emphatic ‘Yes’, ”Judy said. “It’s a very positive sign to Republicans that the voters Donald Trump lost are not necessarily lost forever.”
Trump has been denigrated or fired many times before only to return. His grip on the soul of the Republican Party remains strong.
But Virginia’s result Tuesday valued that slightly looser grip, and gave potential rivals some encouragement.
“If I’m a Republican candidate, a candidate for president today, I think ‘Maybe I can make it,'” Card said. “Now those non-Trump hopefuls have a stronger argument for saying there is more than one way to do this.”
The Memo is a column reported by Niall Stanage.