With less than a year to go in the 2022 midterm elections, political newcomer Glenn Youngkin’s surprise victory in the Virginia governor’s race demonstrated an effective GOP strategy, spearheaded by Donald Trump while maintaining support from staunch supporters of the former president. Appeals to the isolated important suburban electorate. .
Youngkin’s campaign and subsequent victory over Democratic former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe brought Virginia into the national spotlight. The election was a referendum on not only Trump’s influence within the GOP, but also the Biden administration’s inability to deliver on presidential campaign promises.
In the past elections in Virginia, local politics was just that – local. But over the past decade, Virginia changed from a credible red state to a credible blue state in presidential elections. Beginning with the election of Barack Obama in 2008, Virginia has voted Democratic in presidential elections, including the unsuccessful bid of Hillary Clinton in 2016 and Joe Biden in 2020. Prior to the election in 2008, Virginia had voted Republican in the last 40 presidential elections. years.
The recent blue wave put Virginia at the center of national politics—and made it a GOP target. Using national culture wars and particularly GOP outrage over how issues of race are taught in public schools, Youngkin targeted suburban Virginia voters and was chopped up enough to become governor.
In addition to winning the governor’s race, the Virginia GOP saw Winsome Sears become the first black woman to become lieutenant governor. And Republican Jason Miares took over as the state’s attorney general. Republicans won enough seats in the House of Delegates to tie the Democrats, although some races are still to be decided. The Virginia Senate remains under Democratic control.
Blue wave in Virginia is now an open question.
Suburban GOP Benefits
Although Biden won heavily in the suburbs in 2020, the Youngkin campaign won a significant portion this year, in part, by focusing on the possibility that important race theory could be taught at the K-12 level. Not so, but that didn’t stop the spread of misinformation.
Usually reserved for graduate schools, critical race theory is an area of intellectual inquiry that demonstrates the legal codification of racism in America. Rather than answering Youngkin truthfully, McAuliffe further alienated suburban voters by declaring during an argument with Youngkin that “parents should not tell schools what to teach.”
This was a major mistake and became the subject of relentless campaign advertisements by Youngkin in the days leading up to the November 2 election. in Fairfax County – a suburban Democratic stronghold near Washington, DC, and JL: How about “represent” or “contain” instead of “and”? Youngkin’s campaign against the Critical Race Theory improved GOP results by 2.6 percentage points from the 2020 presidential election – about 13.5% of the state’s total vote.
Youngkin’s strategy was also helped by McAuliffe’s inept attempts to portray the millionaire political newcomer as a Trump retainer.
Polls showed the race as a statistical dead heat leading up to election day. Those polling numbers remained steady on election night.
For example, in Virginia’s majority Republican counties, such as Bedford, Frederick, Roanoke and Hanover, Trump’s victory margin in 2020 was between 37% and 60%. Youngkin kept those numbers within 1 percentage point.
Youngkin was able to maintain the Trump base without publicly embracing Trump. GOP optimists who fear alienating moderate suburban Republicans are now able to follow Youngkin’s lead by downplaying their affiliations with Trump, while secretly enjoying the enthusiasm generated among his base .
Like Virginia goes?
The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines “belweather” as “one who leads or initiates” or “an indicator of tendencies”. That is the role Virginia can now play on the national political scene.
While the party of the incumbent president typically loses congressional seats during the midterms, Republicans strengthened by the results in Virginia now expect both chambers to not only return GOP control, but to stun Biden with the added challenge of a divided government. Will also present Both could culminate in a 2024 presidential election campaign that could see Trump at the top of the ticket once again as the Republican nominee.
Such enthusiasm – and public distance from Trump – could be the difference between victory and defeat in the upcoming election across the country. It may also create a new version of an old political standard: all politics is now national.