Ramesh Ponnuru, Bloomberg Review
Governor of Virginia races enjoy inordinate coverage. They take place a year after the presidential elections, often making them the only major competitive competition in the country. And a lot of political journalists are based around Washington.
This time, however, the result can really be an omen. There’s reason to think Republican Glenn Youngkin’s victory is bad news for Democrats nationwide.
First, it suggests that a standard Democratic line of attack is a dud. Terry McAuliffe, the Democratic candidate and former governor, focused his campaign on the horror of former President Donald Trump. He called his opponent “Trumpkin”. The fact that Trump lost the state by 10 percentage points last year made McAuliffe’s strategy appealing. No state Republican party has suffered greater losses in the state legislature under Trump than that of Virginia.
Youngkin had to get away just enough from Trump to reassure voters who disliked the ex-president without alienating his fans – or Trump himself. But he found that land. A decisive number of Virginians who chose President Joe Biden over Trump went with Youngkin. Thus Youngkin was able to retain most of Trump’s voters while winning back some of the people who fled the Republican Party because of him.
Democrats in other states may have better luck with McAuliffe’s strategy if they run against Republicans who are less adept or less determined to part ways with Trump. But many other states – including several with Senate races next year – are also less hostile to Trump than Virginia.