Virginia Governor Race: All eyes are on a race too early to call

McAuliffe, who served as governor from 2014 to 2018 in a state that does not allow successive terms, faced significant headwinds as President Joe Biden’s approval ratings fell and Democrats progressive and moderate alike have struggled to determine the size and scope of their program. in Washington.

But as the night wore on Tuesday, it was clear that Youngkin – a skillful candidate who kept former President Donald Trump at bay and burrowed into local issues like education – was outperforming the Republican candidate for office. governor four years ago and significantly outperforming Trump’s margins in the Virginia suburbs, which had an increasingly Democratic lean.

McAuliffe, on the other hand, underperformed the vote counts released by Biden and current Democratic Governor of Virginia, Ralph Northam, statewide. With around 83% of the vote, Youngkin led McAuliffe by around 52.8% to 46.4%, but the race remains too close to be announced.

For months, McAuliffe tried to energize Democratic voters by describing his opponent as a Trump “contender” who would reverse the gradual gains in a state the former president lost by 10 points last year. Youngkin had accepted Trump’s endorsement, but kept Trump at bay and remained focused on local issues while galvanizing voters with the message that he would be an advocate for parents who want more voice on what is going on in their children’s schools.
In the closing days of the election campaign, McAuliffe called Youngkin “Glenn Trumpkin” and argued that a Youngkin victory in Virginia would embolden Trump ahead of a possible White House candidacy in 2024, but that argument failed. – not be energized Democratic voters like McAuliffe had done. hoped for. Youngkin had exploited some of Trump’s rhetoric to appeal to the GOP base – by talking about “electoral integrity” at the start of the race, for example – but avoided the conference call Trump held Monday night for the republican ticket.
Preliminary results from CNN’s exit poll in Virginia demonstrated the harsh headwinds McAuliffe faced. Only 43% of Virginians said they approved of Biden’s professional performance and a slim majority of voters described the Democratic Party as too liberal on the whole; while fewer voters described the Republican Party as too conservative.
When he was first elected in 2013, McAuliffe challenged Virginia’s traditional model of electing a governor from the party opposed to the president who won the White House the year before. But few expected this race to be this close, as Virginia is increasingly democratic. The latest Washington Post-Schar School poll in October showed Youngkin had an 18-point advantage among potential independent voters, a significant increase from the previous month.
About a third of Virginia voters call the economy the most significant problem facing the state, according to the exit poll. Just under a quarter said education is the most important, around 15% chose taxes, around 14% declared the Covid-19 pandemic, and roughly a tenth chose abortion.

Voters in Virginia hold negative views on Biden and Trump. Only about a fifth of voters say they view their vote as a way to express their support for Biden, with nearly 3 in 10 saying it is a way to voice their opposition, and the remaining half of the electorate saying Biden was not a factor.

Virginia’s gubernatorial election wasn’t the only contest on the ballot on Tuesday. The Commonwealth is also voting for Lieutenant Governor, with either candidate set to make history as the first woman elected to that position and the first woman of color elected to a position across the board. of State. New Jersey was also voting for governor, in a state Biden won nearly 16 points last year, and several major cities were voting for mayor. But the governor’s race in Virginia – where the 100 seats in the House of Delegates are also on the rise – is by far the highest-stakes contest with the most to say about the country’s leadership into 2022 and 2024.
This will be another test of how effectively Democrats tie Republicans to the ballots to Trump when he’s not on the ballot. This strategy paid off well for Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom in California when he avoided being removed from office earlier this year, but Virginia is nowhere near as blue as the Golden State, and Youngkin is not. not as easily painted as a Trump sidekick as Newsom’s GOP was. opponent.
Despite McAuliffe’s efforts to demonize Youngkin as a warrior Trump, who said the former president “represents so much why I am running,” the Republican campaign has portrayed him as a North Virginia clad dad. a fleece vest and not threatening. businessman who has coached basketball in his spare time.
Youngkin wooed suburban voters by digging into GOP culture wars – vowing to protect law enforcement funding amid concerns about rising nationwide crime, rejecting Covid vaccine warrants -19 for teachers and state employees, and swearing that Virginia schools “won’t teach our children to see everything through the prism of race.” In an age when the electorate is welcoming more in addition to newcomers to politics, Youngkin has described his rival as the ultimate political insider as a former chairman of the Democratic National Committee and a top fundraiser for Bill and Hillary Clinton for decades.
What Virginia's election says about the nation

In a message to suburban women, Youngkin accused McAuliffe of allowing the government to stand between parents and their children in education, seizing a comment from the Democrat in a debate that he did not think “parents should tell schools what to teach. ”

One of Youngkin’s closing announcements featured Fairfax County mother and Conservative activist Laura Murphy, claiming that a book her then-high school son was instructed to read had given her nightmares. The book, which does not mention the name in the advertisement, was “Beloved” by Toni Morrison, which deals with the horrors of slavery. Murphy had led a campaign against teaching the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, leading to two bills – ultimately vetoed by McAuliffe – that would have allowed parents to reject certain tasks they saw as self-explanatory.

Democrats jumped at the ad, McAuliffe calling it a “racist dog whistle” and arguing that his Republican opponent was using education to divide Virginia by pitting parents against parents and parents against teachers.

Difficult lift for Democrats despite recent Virginia blue streak

McAuliffe, who previously served as governor from 2014 to 2018, battled Democratic voter burnout, a more forceful Republican base, and Biden’s declining popularity. A chaotic pullout from Afghanistan, a Covid-19 surge fueled by the Delta variant, and a sluggish economy have all taken their toll on Biden, who has struggled to unite his party around his platform.

Progressive and Moderate Democrats in Congress spent months arguing over the size and scope of the president’s social and climate safety net package, but even though there had been a vote on that economic plan of 1.75 million dollars and bipartisan infrastructure by Tuesday of this week, it would have been far too late to boost McAuliffe in a state where early voting began weeks ago.

In the final months of the campaign, with no tangible achievement to report from Democrat-controlled Washington, McAuliffe made no secret of his frustration. He demanded that members of Congress “do their job and stop asking,” in an interview with CNN.
The national mood has deteriorated amid lingering fears, restrictions and frustrations over the Covid-19 pandemic and uncertain economic recovery. Voters are concerned about inflation, the higher prices they pay as the holiday season approaches, and supply chain bottlenecks that have disrupted the economy. The latest CNN poll found that the president is 42% approved versus 51% disapproval among American adults, and in a national NBC News poll released on Sunday, 7 in 10 said the country was headed in the wrong direction.

It would not be unusual for Commonwealth voters to reject the ruling White House party. But there has been even more pressure on McAuliffe to reverse that trend, given that Virginia has not elected a GOP governor since 2009 and has been worn by Democrats in every presidential election since 2004.

This is one of the reasons why, amid concerns over Democratic apathy, McAuliffe called on the party’s biggest stars, including Biden and former President Barack Obama, in an attempt to bolster his fortunes before Tuesday’s elections. In an appearance Friday night with McAuliffe in Norfolk, Vice President Kamala Harris called the race “a indicator of what’s going on in the rest of the country,” arguing that “what happens in Virginia will largely determine what will happen in 2022, 2024 and at. ”

The debates were marked by strong political contrasts between the two candidates. Youngkin argued that McAuliffe’s government spending plans are too costly and said he would fuel an economic stimulus in Virginia by cutting taxes, including the “grocery tax” which Youngkin said would allow Virginians save $ 1,500 the first year of implementation.

McAuliffe pledged a $ 2 billion investment in education – double the amount he proposed in his first term – and touted 20 plans he developed to pull the state out of the Covid pandemic . He called for Covid-19 vaccine warrants for state teachers, healthcare workers and other essential employees, arguing that Youngkin’s resistance to such measures would jeopardize the state’s recovery.

But Youngkin says that while he asked everyone in Virginia “to get vaccinated please,” he thinks firing workers who don’t comply with vaccine mandates could cripple the city. State economically.

“We need people on the job. To make life difficult, this is no way to go and serve Virginians,” Youngkin said during the final candidate debate. “We can do it. We can actually protect lives and livelihoods.”

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