WASHINGTON — All eyes are on Virginia, the place voters have their say Tuesday within the first main election of President Joe Biden’s time period — one each events are watching intently for classes forward of subsequent yr’s midterm elections.
Polls present a neck-and-neck race between Democrat Terry McAuliffe, a former governor seeking to reclaim the workplace, and political newcomer Glenn Youngkin, who’s making an attempt to crack the code on win as a Republican in a state former President Donald Trump misplaced by a large margin.
The Covid-19 pandemic dominated the marketing campaign’s early months, however as circumstances receded, different points like abortion and schooling took heart stage. Youngkin harnessed parental frustration with faculty closures and masks mandates in addition to fears of anti-white bias in curriculum that dovetail with a nationwide conservative backlash to essential race idea, a once-obscure tutorial discipline primarily solely taught on the graduate degree.
McAuliffe has tried to tie Youngkin to Trump, hoping to indicate the previous president can nonetheless be an efficient boogeyman to inspire the Democratic base and overcome lackluster enthusiasm for Biden and his gridlocked agenda in Washington.
Virginia, which elects its governors a yr after the presidential election, has typically served as an indicator of which method the political winds are blowing and which get together is extra engaged. Listed below are 5 issues to look at:
1. Is Virginia a purple state once more?
Former President Barack Obama received the commonwealth twice. Biden carried it by 10 proportion factors final yr. And no Republican has received statewide since 2009. When Democrats claimed complete management of the Legislature in 2019, outgoing Gov. Ralph Northam, who’s prohibited by the state Structure from in search of a second time period, declared Virginia “formally blue.”
However a win Tuesday by Youngkin or anybody else on the GOP ticket — or perhaps a shut loss — would reset the electoral calculus. If Democrats are struggling right here, what does that imply for different Southern states like Georgia and North Carolina, the place the get together has made beneficial properties by copying the Virginia playbook and the place Democrats hope to defend or choose up Senate seats in 2022?
Virginia was barely contested within the final presidential election, however a Youngkin victory would possibly put it again in play, squeezing Democrats by making them play protection with working-class white voters in each the higher Midwest and in additional numerous Solar Belt states the place the get together had been making beneficial properties these days.
2. Will the Democratic base end up?
Black voters stay key to the Democratic coalition. McAuliffe within the closing weeks signaled concern in regards to the constituency, accusing Youngkin of desirous to ban books by Black authors. The info have been extra nuanced, with Youngkin framing his “Dad and mom Matter” message round McAuliffe’s previous vetoes of laws that might have allowed mother and father to choose their youngsters out of studying books with sexually express content material. The e book on the heart of that debate? Toni Morrison’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel “Beloved,” which recounts the horrors of slavery.
Youngkin’s marketing campaign, in the meantime, emphasised a current event when former Virginia Gov. Douglas Wilder — a Democrat who was the nation’s first elected Black governor — criticized McAuliffe in an area TV interview.
Turnout has historically been a problem for Democrats in nonpresidential election, particularly amongst folks of colour and younger voters, and preserving them motivated will probably be essential subsequent yr.
Democrats are watching locations just like the Hampton Roads space and preserving in thoughts benchmarks from current elections, when Northam earned 1.4 million votes in 2017, Sen. Tim Kaine acquired 1.9 million in his 2018 midterm re-election and Biden earned 2.4 million in 2020.
3. How a lot credit score — or blame — does Trump get?
Youngkin accepted Trump’s endorsement and within the summary hewed intently to Trump — and a lot of the GOP at massive — on coverage and tradition points. However he refused to marketing campaign alongside Trump and at instances needed to distance himself from Trump’s most strident allies. Democrats tried to persuade Trump into campaigning for Youngkin, anticipating a photograph opp that would rally their get together, in addition to impartial, Trump-weary voters, to McAuliffe within the closing days.
Trump gave the impression to be itching to be extra concerned, teasing final week that he’d be in Virginia quickly. It turned out to be simply that — a tease, and Trump’s presence within the residence stretch was confined to a Monday “tele-rally.” Nevertheless it’s been onerous to gauge how a lot of an element he’s for voters on both facet.
Republicans have their very own turnout questions, too, with out Trump on the poll. The GOP will probably be watching Virginia’s huge rural stretches within the West and Southern reaches of the commonwealth, the place they want excessive turnout to beat Democratic benefits in additional populated areas.
4. What does the Virginia Home say in regards to the U.S. Home?
Whereas the headlines will probably be all in regards to the governor’s races in Virginia and New Jersey, operatives in subsequent yr’s congressional races will probably be intently watching the 100-member Virginia Home of delegates, all of whom are up for re-election Tuesday.
Democrats received full management of the Virginia Legislature for the primary time in a long time in 2019, persevering with their profitable streak below Trump. But when Democrats misplaced the Virginia Home or see their present 55-45 margin shrink considerably, it will not solely imperil Democrats in Virginia however probably foreshadow bother for the get together nationwide in 2022.
State legislative elections can function extra pure expressions of voters’ feeling about every get together since particular person candidates are usually much less well-known. And with 100 totally different races and districts to investigate, they will provide a extra nuanced view of various electorates than statewide contests.
5. Do the suburbs keep blue or bounce again?
With Trump out of workplace, one of many greatest questions in politics throughout the nation is whether or not Democrats can retain their assist in traditionally Republican suburbs that shifted blue below Trump, or if the culturally liberal however fiscally average suburbanites will return to GOP.
The primary large indicators of the Democratic momentum below Trump was an sudden surge in assist for Northam in Virginia’s suburbs in 2017. And suburbs have largely dictated lots of the key elections since, from the blue wave within the final midterms in 2018 to Biden’s victory in 2020 in each the Democratic main and the final election.
Observers will probably be intently watching locations like Loudoun County, which has lengthy been a bellwether and has been a flashpoint within the debate over schooling and significant race idea.