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Will Virginia Be The Canary In The Coal Mine For Biden’s Incompetence?

Virginia has changed from being a Republican-leaning state to becoming a purple state that is competitive and then finally becoming a blue state over the past two decades.

The dramatic change in the prevailing political winds in the Commonwealth have largely been fueled by the dramatic growth in the Washington, DC suburbs in northern Virginia – colloquially known as NoVA. The political reshaping of Virginia has been fundamentally driven by the new generation of immigrants and lobbyists as well as government workers, defense contractors and politicians.

Virginia hasn’t elected a Republican statewide since Bob McDonnell defeated Democrat Creigh Deeds in 2009. Virginia Republicans could soon end this long drought.

On the face of it, this election didn’t look promising for Republicans. Hillary Clinton (D) defeated Donald Trump (R) by 5 points in 2016 – a margin of victory that Joe Biden (D) DoubledTo 10% by 2020

Virginia Republicans also faced a difficult primary to win the nomination. This fight exposed deep divisions between establishment and centrist GOPers as well as pro-Trump GOPers.

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Indeed, the party even fought over the way in which the party’s nominee would be chosen – eventually settling for a convention held in 39 satellite locations rather than a traditional primary (which many Republican officials worried would be won by the most conservative candidate).

In the end, political newcomer Glenn Youngkin – the former CEO of the private equity firm Carlyle Group – won the party’s nomination, and despite previous threats State Senator Amanda Chase (R) – whom Youngkin defeated in the nomination process – declined to run as an independent.

Youngkin would be competing against Terry McAuliffe (an ex-Governor of Virginia). (Virginia has a quirky system that prohibits governors from serving consecutive terms – but they can serve non-consecutive terms.) 

An ill-informed Republican electorate, an inexperienced political leader, and a former governor on the opposite side of the aisle, all this happened just one year after Joe Biden was elected to the state. All of this was not good news for Republicans.

A funny thing happened on the way to McAuliffe’s coronation, however: the political ground underneath shifted – and shifted dramatically.

First, Youngkin has been a surprisingly good campaigner – especially for a political newcomer. Unlike his opponent, Youngkin from the very beginning of his campaign zeroed in on education and the economy as his top issues – and he has been incredibly disciplined in sticking to those issues.

McAuliffe has, however, been all over. At times looking like he wants Virginians to think he’s running against Trump, at times focusing on COVID, at times trying to sound like a uniter, and only occasionally even running on his previous four years as Governor.

While Youngkin proved to be a surprisingly good and focused campaigner and McAuliffe a shockingly bad and undisciplined one, something else was happening nationally:  President Joe Biden’s poll numbers began their precipitous free-fall.

Multiple polling stations now indicate that Biden is underwater in Virginia, and McAuliffe even admitted it.

“We are facing a lot of headwinds from Washington,” McAuliffe, a former head of the Democratic National Committee, said during a virtual rally with supporters on Tuesday. “As you know, the president is unpopular today, unfortunately, here in Virginia, so we’ve got to plow through.”

McAuliffe might have suffered the worst performance of his debate against Youngkin in September. McAuliffe seemed annoyed by having to even answer questions and share the podium with Youngkin throughout the whole debate.

His dismissive, condescending, and combative style was a dramatic contrast to Youngkin’s smooth, polished, and even-keeled performance. That final debate was also the spot of McAuliffe’s biggest and most high profile gaffe to date, telling viewers – incredulously – that, “I don’t think parents should be telling schools what they should teach.”

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Between Biden’s cratering poll numbers and McAuliffe’s terrible campaign, we enter the home stretch with a race that was once thought of as out-of-reach now locked in a dead heat.

McAuliffe is tied with Youngkin in Virginia, and Real Clear Politics’ average polls shows that the Democrats have lost 5% of their lead from the start of October to only +1.8+.

These days, there aren’t any moral victories in politics. Youngkin may come close, but Youngkin fails to win the election. Virginia Republicans will then be left asking what it takes to restore the Commonwealth’s ship.

Youngkin wins on November 2, but this will be both a sign that Republicans are back in Texas and a warning sign for Democrats looking ahead to 2022.

 

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