What do Virginia and New Jersey races mean for midterms?

Republicans ousted Democrats from the Virginia governorate and suffered a major uproar in New Jersey, which is highly Democratic, on Wednesday, signaling trouble for President Joe Biden’s party heading into next year’s Congressional elections.

In Virginia, Republican Glenn Youngkin, a former private equity executive, defeated former Gov. Terry McAuliffe in Tuesday’s vote, and the Democrat conceded Wednesday morning. Youngkin had distanced himself enough from former President Donald Trump to win back the moderates who had supported Biden just a year ago.

In New Jersey, incumbent Democrat Phil Murphy criticized Republican challenger Jack Ciattarelli, even though registered Democratic voters outnumber Republicans by more than 1 million. The outcome had been in doubt until the Associated Press called the race for Murphy on Wednesday night, sparing the Democrats a humiliating defeat.

Ciattarelli, 59, a former state legislator, had lost as much as 10 points in some opinion polls, but gained traction by criticizing Murphy’s unpopular mask requirements for school children.

Both Republican candidates saw strong gains in the suburbs of independent voters who had been rejected by Trump’s style of politics. Results in states where Biden won easily in 2020 suggest that tiny majorities of Democrats in Congress are highly vulnerable in the 2022 election.

Campaign signs for Democrat Terry McAuliffe and Republican Glenn Youngkin unite on the last day of early voting in the Virginia gubernatorial election in Fairfax, Virginia, October 30, 2021 (credit: JOSHUA ROBERTS / REUTERS)

If Republicans gain control of both, or even one chamber of Congress, the party would gain the ability to block Biden’s legislative agenda in the last two years of his term.

“There is no question that Tuesday was a bad day for Democrats,” says Tevi Troy, former White House aide and author of Fight House: Rivalries in the White House, from Truman to Trump.

“The first out-of-year election is often bad for a sitting president, but this was a real blow,” he said. Incoming Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin gave Republicans a roadmap on how to expand the map, while Terry McAuliffe’s losing campaign showed the flaws of only running against Trump when Trump is not on the ballot.

“Looking ahead, this suggests a good year for Republicans in the upcoming 2022 congressional elections,” Troy said. “Now we know what works for Republicans. The question is whether Democrats are willing to make changes and acknowledge that the left turn of the Biden administration and the leadership of Congress has serious electoral consequences. “

Josh Kraushaar, editor-in-chief of political coverage at the National Journal, said that the Biden White House, “and the Democratic Party’s complacency with progressive elements in their party cost them a lot across the country, but more significantly in the races. of governors in the blue “. states dominated by the suburbs of Virginia and New Jersey “.

“Youngkin won in a state that Biden led by 10 points just a year earlier, while Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy narrowly survived a scare in a Democratic stronghold that Biden won by 16 points,” added Kraushaar.

He said the volatile state of the economy, combined with Democrats’ disconnect on cultural issues like crime / security and education, are powerful fuel for Republicans to run in next year’s midterm elections.

“Republicans are now highly favored to regain control of the House in next year’s midterm elections, and their prospects for regaining the Senate now look much stronger.”

Sam Markstein, national political director of the Republican Jewish Coalition, said Youngkin’s victory “is a political earthquake.”

“If you look at the map, every county in the state of Virginia, from rural areas to suburban areas to urban areas, every county moved to Republicans from 2020 to 2021, each and every one,” he said.

Youngkin got 37% of the Jewish vote in Virginia, according to exit polls from the American Jewish Congress, of which Markstein noted, that “it’s a really high number for a Republican gubernatorial candidate, and actually it’s a decrease of 10 points in support “. for last year’s Democrats. “

“The trend lines are there. The Jewish vote goes to the Republicans significantly for a year, ”he said. “And I think it’s just another piece of data that Democrats are losing support among the Jewish community, whether it’s in Florida or Virginia.”

He seemed optimistic about the Republican prospects for 2022. “I think going forward, this is a really prescient election for Democrats in 2022. He’s already seen retirements in the Democratic caucus in the House. You’ve seen people say they won’t run again. You’ve seen committee chairs say they won’t run again. And that doesn’t happen unless they think they are going to lose the majority. I’d say Republicans are favored now to take back the House if it wasn’t clear before last night. Now it’s clear, and I think Youngkin showed a really good plan for how Republicans can win in states that had previously turned blue. “

And what is that plane?

“The lessons learned are to keep the campaigns focused on the issues that concern voters. It sounds really simplistic, but that’s really it, ”Markstein said. “You have to know what the voters care about. And right now, it is very obvious that the issues that most concern voters are the economy and employment. And, in Virginia, education was clearly a big problem. And in New Jersey, it was all about taxes.

“So it may sound simplistic, but that’s really the key to victory here is to get away from personality types and get back to issues that concern voters,” he said.

Halie Soifer, executive director of the Jewish Democratic Council of America, said: “We are looking at these two races, one of which was a defeat and the other was a victory much closer than we anticipated, too close for our comfort.” she said.

“What is clear is that the Jewish vote continues to overwhelmingly support the Democrats,” Soifer said. “And the majority of the Jews supported Terry McAuliffe and the majority of the Jews supported Governor Murphy. So this election was not really about the Jewish vote, but about issues that matter to Jewish voters. And in Virginia, Glenn Youngkin tried to distance himself enough from Trump’s vitriol, misinformation, and threats to our democracy that he appealed to independents, while also at times aligning himself with Trumpism to appeal to his base. And as we approach 2022, the Democrats will make it clear that you can’t have both. “

She said that “with the Build Back Better agenda that will soon be approved in Congress. There will be a clear distinction between what the two parties represent. “

“This is a turning point for Democrats, it was a wake-up call,” he said. “It is clear what we have to do before the next election and, in doing so, in terms of results for the American people. There will be a clear distinction between the two parties. And less ability for Republicans like Youngkin to simultaneously position themselves as both aligned but sufficiently distanced from Donald Trump. “

He also noted that before the midterm elections, “we are seeing a movement of both parties towards the center and Jewish voters in particular have always been at the center.”

Reuters contributed to this report.


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