Virginia’s election results are leaving the Democrat Party shook because Republican Glenn Youngkin learned to balance Trumpism. He modestly accepted the former President’s endorsement and got back to focusing on the issues voters care about now.
With the official concession of Democrat Terry McAuliffe on Wednesday morning, we can now reflect on what happened in Virginia’s governor election.
Not only did Glenn Youngkin win -- but African American Winsome Sears was victorious in the Lt. Governor race, and Cuban-American Jason Miyares was elected Attorney General. On top of all that, Republicans are set to take back control of the Virginia House of Delegates.
To assert that Virginia’s Republican election results victory are somehow the work of white supremacy won’t do.
"White fragility" was the very first thing blue checkmarks like Dean Obeidallah jumped to blaming, early on Tuesday night. Jemele Hill of The Atlantic joined in that scapegoating. Wajahat Ali of The Daily Beast blamed whiteness for Virginia’s election results not just once, but twice.
An account associated with incoming Lieutenant Governor Winsome Sears begged to differ.
But the day after an election is a window of opportunity to reflect on the results.
Republicans swept the state and turned it red. It hadn’t been this red since the governor election of 2009.
The New York Times recap outlines the sticker shock of expectations seeing how Biden beat Trump by 10 percent in the 2020 race. They say Republican mobilization versus Democrat apathy is part of the problem.
The outlet is responsible for making this widely shared map showing the "red wind" of Republican shifts blowing across the state. McAuliffe only had visible successes in places like Alexandria, Richmond, and Norfolk.
So what happened? CNN’s Van Jones said on Tuesday night that Democrats "took Virginia for granted." That’s a start. But then he veers off track when labeling Youngkin as the "delta variant of Trumpism."
"It’s not a Trump rally, let them holler" responded Joe Biden to a crowd of protesters heckling a July rally event for McAuliffe.
Vote Democrat "down the ballot" tweeted Kamala Harris and Stacey Abrams. But it didn’t work. What the left tried to play for was the same old Trump card. Down to their mailing materials they sent out.
It’s what people like John Cardillo are trying to say when they groan at Trump’s victory lap statements about Youngkin’s success.
"A vote for Youngkin is a vote for Trump" McAuliffe stated.
The concerns of 2020 still lingered in people’s minds with the situation in Fairfax County and absentee voting. But that was on Tuesday. Today on Wednesday the hope by some is that the Virginia victory helps reassure Trump supporters about election integrity.
In terms of pure numbers, Youngkin’s tally is at 1,674,550 votes vs. McAulifee’s 1,603,010. As the results came in last night it at first seemed like Youngkin had a wider lead. But this final outcome actually matches up closer to what the polling predictions speculated would happen.
"There's no big demographic shift underlying this. Just broad strength," remarked Nate Cohn of The New York Times.
The reality of Virginia is seen in cases like the Biden voter who Fox News interviewed earlier this week. Despite her choice in 2020, this mother expressed clear concerns about the state of Virginia’s education system.
The way Terry McAuliffe waffled when addressing critical race theory being taught in schools involved claiming both denial that it’s being taught, but also calling it a "racist dog whistle."
He said to a black female reporter simply asking him for a definition.
Glenn Youngkin innovated by looking at angry parents in places like Loudoun County and seeing opportunities to mobilize that energy. The technique of both embracing the culture war, but without directly needing Trump involved to help engage with that discussion.
This dynamic came to a climax during the September debate between McAuliffe and Youngkin. "I don’t think parents should be telling schools what they should teach," Terry told Glenn.
But it was more than that. The Loudoun County school board’s mishandling of a sex abuse case was a prominent headline in October. But in the same timeframe of parents demanding resignations, former President Obama was dismissive of such concerns at a rally for Terry McAuliffe.
That’s part of the picture. From a policy standpoint, boiling down McAuliffe’s education plans (as seen with issues like busing), it brought an outlook that’d seem to exacerbate rather than solving issues on parents’ minds.
All in all it helps explain why the white women demographic took a fifteen percent shift in the GOP’s favor between 2020 and 2021.
Loudoun County parents celebrated Youngkin’s win on election night, even though the county ultimately went to McAuliffe. In the end, things paid off for both the voters and Youngkin. In his Tuesday night victory speech he told the crowd: "We are going to embrace our parents, not ignore them."
It’s cohesive "narrative control" because it had a clear message. An aspect of the Virginia governor race that Julian Castro recognized.
Meanwhile the Democrats made mistakes like McAuliffe’s obsession to try and tie Glenn Youngkin to Donald Trump.
"The Bill Kristol endorsement will be big. Trust me," promised Jennifer Rubin of the Washington Post back in September.
A lesson to learn from McAuliffe’s failed campaign is to not lean so heavily on "star power" to the point where voter concerns are drowned out. There’s no real engagement when you have situations like how Kamala Harris did a video endorsement distributed to Virginia churches.
The Project Lincoln stunt from this past weekend now feels like an afterthought.
It’s a reflection of the Biden administration. A Fox News exit poll showed the economy and jobs were the most important issue at 35 percent of the 2615 voters who were asked. The pandemic was second at 17 percent, followed by education at 15 percent.
Youngkin beat McAuliffe in two of those three categories.
The usual topics of racism, immigration and abortion that are brought up in the regular news cycle didn’t capture voter’s attention, even when combined.
As we highlighted last night, a CNN exit poll showed more people disapproved of Biden (56 percent) than approved (43 percent).
It’s this backdrop of disappointment by the Biden administration that completes a "devastating" formula for Democrats in the House and Senate in 2022.
Kamala Harris said it herself. What happened last night in Virginia’s election determines what happens in 2022, 2024 and on.
Under this model and playbook, DeSantis in the 2024 presidential race seems inevitable. In the more immediate sense, however, Republicans have set their sights on other "vulnerable Democrats" to take on next.