© Reuters. Virginia Republican gubernatorial nominee Glenn Youngkin speaks throughout his election evening celebration at a lodge in Chantilly, Virginia, U.S., November 3, 2021. REUTERS/ Elizabeth Frantz
By James Oliphant
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Republican Glenn Youngkin’s upset victory within the Virginia governor race is prone to embolden and energize Republicans forward of subsequent yr’s essential midterm elections, when management of Congress will probably be at stake.
In edging out Democrat Terry McAuliffe, Youngkin might have supplied a mannequin for Republican candidates in 2022, whereas Democrats should now fret over President Joe Biden’s sagging approval rankings and stalled agenda in Congress.
Listed here are some takeaways from Youngkin’s victory:
As Biden struggles, so does his celebration
Biden and his Democrats have had a tough yr. The unfold of COVID-19 and pockets of resistance to vaccines proceed. The army pullout from Afghanistan was broadly considered as chaotic and mismanaged.
The president has struggled to cohere Democratic moderates and progressives round his big-ticket legislative agenda. On the identical time, costs for shopper items, meals and gasoline have shot up – with voters largely blaming the celebration in energy.
Merely put, Biden hasn’t given voters – significantly these outdoors the Democratic base – a lot to be ok with.
Youngkin capitalized on these troubles, operating up the rating in rural Virginia and squeezing McAuliffe’s margins in some vital suburban areas.
Whereas Biden received independents handily in 2020, 57% to 38%, Youngkin received them 54% to 45%, in accordance with CNN exit polls. A slender majority of voters general mentioned the Democratic Celebration was too liberal, the polls confirmed.
McAuliffe, a former governor, introduced his personal historical past and baggage to the race. A widely known determine in Virginia with robust ties to Invoice and Hillary Clinton, he didn’t give voters the recent voice that political newcomer Youngkin supplied.
However the losses by McAuliffe and different down-ballot Democrats in a state Biden received by 10 proportion factors a yr in the past – together with a closer-than-expected New Jersey governor’s race – left little doubt that Democrats at the moment are in a weaker political place.
Indicators are pointing to substantial Republican beneficial properties in Congress subsequent yr, mentioned Invoice McInturff, a Republican pollster.
“Each survey quantity we’re seeing paints a bleak image for President Biden and Democrats in Congress,” McInturff mentioned.
The tradition wars round schooling are potent
Youngkin gained momentum within the race by specializing in schooling, a method Republicans doubtless will mimic nationally subsequent yr as colleges have change into floor zero for a number of U.S. tradition wars.
The Republican seized on tensions between mother and father and college boards over insurance policies for COVID faculty closures and security protocols, gender points and the instructing of so-called “vital race concept” – a time period misused to explain antiracism curricula that Youngkin claimed was proof that faculty districts had been drifting too far leftward.
McAuliffe might have made the biggest mistake of the marketing campaign when, at a debate, he mentioned, “I don’t suppose mother and father needs to be telling colleges what they need to train.” The remarks quickly turned a centerpiece of Youngkin assault advertisements – and the difficulty as an entire might have resonated with scores of suburban mother and father annoyed after seeing their kids stored at dwelling for greater than a full faculty yr throughout the pandemic.
Voters who believed mother and father ought to have “loads” of say over what colleges train went for Youngkin 76% to 23%, in accordance with CNN exit polls. Conversely, of the voters who listed the virus as their high concern, 83% went for McAuliffe and simply 17% for Youngkin, CNN mentioned.
“Youngkin’s huge overperformance was tied to the problems of faculties – and an rebellion from mother and father, who turned in a single day homeschoolers,” mentioned Doug Heye, who labored as a high aide to Eric Cantor, a former Republican congressman from Virginia.
A non-Trump lane exists for Republicans
Even with the lengthy shadow Trump continues to solid over the Republican Celebration, Youngkin expertly confirmed learn how to preserve his distance from the divisive former president with out incurring his wrath.
A former CEO of the Carlyle Group (NASDAQ:), Youngkin ran as a businessman outsider candidate somewhat than a Trump acolyte. He largely steered away from endorsing Trump’s bogus claims that he misplaced final yr’s elections on account of fraud, whereas nonetheless supporting the precept of “voter integrity.” Not like Trump, Youngkin was a full-throated advocate of vaccines, at the same time as he opposed mandates.
Whereas Trump endorsed him a number of instances, Youngkin resisted a full embrace to the purpose that Trump in the end didn’t come to the state to marketing campaign on his behalf.
Youngkin “is offering a mannequin” for Republicans, mentioned Tom Davis, a former Republican congressman from Virginia. “He has separated himself fairly effectively.”
Nobody hoped Trump would come to the state greater than McAuliffe, who spent a lot of his marketing campaign attempting to tie Youngkin to Trump at each flip. It didn’t work. Exit polls by NBC confirmed voters considered Youngkin rather more favorably than Trump, who stays unpopular within the state.
Even Trump took observe. “All McAuliffe did was speak Trump, Trump, Trump and he misplaced!,” he mentioned in an announcement on Tuesday. “I suppose individuals operating for workplace as Democrats received’t be doing that an excessive amount of longer.”