Virginia governor race: why this election has huge national implications, including for Trump and Biden

In the final days of the race, the two candidates in Virginia – as well as the current and former presidents – highlighted how the race has national significance and could set the tone for next year’s midterm elections. and beyond.
“The whole nation is watching this… there are only two statewide elections this year, New Jersey and Virginia, and all eyes are on Virginia. The nation needs us to vote for them too. “Republican Glenn Youngkin said on his last day on the track on Monday. Ironically, however, Youngkin did all he could to keep the local campaign going, emphasizing issues like schools and local taxes – to avoid getting drawn into the political maelstrom that still rages around Trump. .
Democrat Terry McAuliffe, who is running for a second non-consecutive term, is hoping that the apathy of his party’s voters after a somewhat erratic campaign won’t hold back participation in Democratic strongholds in suburban Washington, DC. After anchoring his attempt to try to portray Youngkin as a less profane version of Trump, he needs to fear the possible return of the former president to motivate his constituents.

“Trump backed him for the tenth time today,” McAuliffe said after the former president issued a new statement on Monday supporting his opponent. “What does that tell you? The little people of MAGA, not as excited as you thought. McAuliffe even went so far as to say Monday night that Youngkin was “having an event” with the former president, although a Youngkin aide confirmed to CNN that the Republican candidate had not called a rally organized by Trump. Monday evening.

It can be dangerous to extrapolate too much about the political fate of the nation from a single race. And what happens on Tuesday will not define the critical congressional elections in 2022 or the presidential duel of 2024.

But Virginia and New Jersey are often seen as referendums on a new White House since they vote a year after the presidential election. They offer the first real health check in Biden’s first year in office, after suffering a brutal summer and struggling to implement his massive social spending and infrastructure plans. A loss of McAulliffe would be seen as a disaster for Democrats and a sign that voters have already turned on them. And even a narrow victory in a state Biden won easily in 2020 would likely still be seen as a warning sign for Democrats and suggest that their political position has seriously eroded after a year of control of the White House and the United States. two chambers of Congress.

Exceptionally, the previous presidency – with its racial overtime and violent end – also hovered over this campaign in Virginia, testifying to Trump’s still extremely divisive role in American politics. Violent cultural and ideological clashes have rocked this campaign and are already starting to shape the mid-course races. Youngkin looked at a fierce conservative reaction to progressives’ push for transgender equality and an accounting of America’s past racial sins in teaching history in schools.

Scenes of angry parents at school board meetings in Virginia are repeated across the country, heralding a new flashpoint that could infuse GOP campaigns with similar energy to the Tea Party movement ahead of midterm in 2010 .

And Virginia – with its rich and diverse suburbs and conservative rural areas, as well as the strongholds of African-American voters around the state capital of Richmond and towards the coast – offers a demographic profile of America in miniature. .

Maybe it’s time for the GOP

Until then Sen. Barack Obama won Virginia on his way to the White House in 2008, Virginia was considered a strong, conservative southern state for presidential votes, even electing some Democrats statewide. But he’s turned blue in the last four presidential elections, which is one of the reasons McAuliffe’s struggles this year – after a successful tenure between 2014 and 2018 – are surprising. (Virginia does not allow governors to serve consecutive terms).

Why Democrats Have So Many Problems In Virginia
But if there ever was a time for a Republican governor to reclaim the state, it might be now. An incumbent Democratic president endured a miserable few months with his approval ratings dipping 40 to 40. Trump was a huge motivating force for moderate Democratic, independent, and disillusioned GOP voters in the state last year. But he’s not on the ballot, despite McAuliffe’s relentless efforts to portray Youngkin as a clone of the former president. Voters’ patience has also been severely tested by the pandemic, with cases increasing over the summer despite Biden declaring it all but over on July 4.

National cultural struggles over masks and vaccines electrified the race for governor, while Youngkin exploited existing frustration with distance education for months during Covid-19 to gain an audience for his more partisan messages on the rights of parents to decide how their children are taught about America’s racial history. He also spoke of several alleged assaults on schools in pro-democracy Loudoun County, which sparked controversy over the rights of transgender students.

McAuliffe left the door wide open with a misguided comment during a debate earlier this year, when he said: “I don’t think parents should tell schools what they should be teaching.” Youngkin took the comment out of context, but in retrospect, that’s when his campaign really gained traction as he continued his rival’s lead in the polls in October and made the race one. dead end on election day.

Trump hovers over the race

Despite all of McAuliffe’s claims that a victory by his nemesis would open the door to another Trump presidential campaign, the former Republican investment banker did a clever job of not being Trump. Framing his campaign on local issues, despite its national implications, and pledging to increase spending on education and remove the tax on groceries, Youngkin attempted to appeal to residents of suburban Virginia while sending coded messages to Trump’s voters that he must produce in large numbers.

Trump tells supporters to 'get out and vote' for Youngkin in Virginia gubernatorial race
His vow to ban the teaching of critical race theory – a concern of the conservative media – in Virginia schools receives the biggest acclaim from his rallies, even though it is not part of the curriculum. But last week McAuliffe accused him of exchanging racial dog whistles after Youngkin posted an ad in which a parent, who turned out to be a Tory activist, complained about the explicit contents of a book that his son had been instructed to read. Unnamed in the ad, the book turned out to be “Beloved,” by the late Nobel Prize winner Toni Morrison and one of the country’s most revered African-American literary figures. Racial issues are never far below the surface in Virginia, the seat of Confederation and the site of a 2017 white supremacist march in Charlottesville, after which Trump equivocates on the condemnation of racist protesters.

Youngkin did not campaign with Trump – whose low ratings in the country’s suburbs helped condemn his party in the United States House in 2018 and in the Senate and White House in 2020. But the The former president’s statement backing Youngkin on Monday sounded like an attempt to claim credit for his victory if he wins.

The imposing, mild-mannered Youngkin emerges as a bad role model for McAuliffe’s Trump-fueled attack – an issue Obama, one of the Democratic heavyweights imported to boost McAuliffe’s campaign, addressed at a rally last month. “You can’t run ads telling me you’re an ordinary old man who plays hula hoops, washes the dishes and wears fleeces, but quietly cultivate the support of those who seek to tear down our democracy,” Obama said.

Youngkin failed to win the Arlington, Fairfax and Loudoun counties suburbs on Tuesday. He just needs to do well enough, especially with independents, to limit McAuliffe’s advantage while driving Trump’s core voters down state.

If he wins, Youngkin will validate a possible model for future Republican candidates who wish to broaden their attractiveness but must also avoid alienating the Trump base. He has already demonstrated the power of leading a campaign focused on parents frustrated with public schools. And given the scale of the task he faced, a victory for Youngkin would crown a new GOP star – especially for conservatives who envision a post-Trump future.

A Youngkin victory would raise questions among Democrats about whether tying GOP candidates to extremism and the ex-president’s undemocratic incitement is a viable strategy for 2022. And yet, Trump – who appears to be using midterms as a springboard for his own eventual 2024 campaign and backing candidates who promote his lie that the last election was stolen from him – is likely to be a pervasive and explosive presence next year that will be difficult for all ballot candidate to escape.

But anything less than a clear victory for McAuliffe would assume that Democratic House seats in Virginia could be in serious jeopardy next year if there was a similar turnout. Given the slim majority of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, there would be panic among dozens of Democrats over a possible GOP rout next year, which could possibly precipitate a wave of departures at the retirement of the holders of threatened seats.

A close race or a small McAuliffe win will also be watched closely for further signs that Trump and his cronies will seek to fuel their lies about a flawed electoral system and allege voter fraud. Such claims would further damage faith in American democracy – already gutted among Trump supporters. But that would fuel the personal political goals of the ex-president.

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