Youngkin, GOP Sweep Virginia

It's usually more effective to run for something rather than against someone.

As noted in my previous post, my home state of Virginia highlighted a bad night for Democrats. Glenn Youngkin won the governor’s race and Winsome Sears and Jason Miyares will be lieutenant governor and attorney general, respectively.

In addition to holding elections for state offices in odd-numbered years, which surely depresses turnout, the Commonwealth clings to the archaic practice of limiting the governor to a single, consecutive four-year term. Democrat Terry McAuliffe won in 2013, facing a Republican so repugnant even the right-wing Richmond Times-Dispatch couldn’t endorse, he won in an election I sat out. He ran essentially unopposed for the Democratic nomination again, seeking to be the first to win a second term in decades. This time, I held my nose and voted for him. While he easily won the Northern Virginia suburbs where I live, he didn’t fare well in most of the state.

But, using NYT graphics, here’s the shift from last November’s Presidential vote:

There’s literally not a blue arrow on this map: Youngkin outperformed Trump and McAuliffe underperformed Biden across the state. As noted in my previous post, I blame this partly on the depressed turnout inherent in holding this contest so soon after a Presidential race. A million fewer people voted in this contest compared to that one, despite 45 days to do so.

But there’s more to it. McAuliffe is just a lousy candidate. He came in third in the 2009 primaries against a terrible field and won in 2013 and 2021 essentially by default. And he ran a lousy campaign, trying to convince Virginians to cast another vote against Donald Trump rather than to give him another four years in the governor’s mansion.

WaPo (“Republican Glenn Youngkin wins Virginia governor’s race“):

McAuliffe worked relentlessly to tie Youngkin to the unpopular Trump and warned that Virginia’s recent record of Democratic policy changes — from safeguarding abortion and voting rights to expanding access to health care — could be at risk if Youngkin won.

He also accused the Republican of fanning the flames of racism and brought former president Barack Obama, Vice President Harris and voting rights activist Stacey Abrams to Virginia to try to build enthusiasm among Black voters, a crucial Democratic constituency.

It was unclear how well the push panned out, though Democrats’ efforts to establish expansive early-voting access helped result in good turnout at the polls.

Christopher E. Piper, the commissioner of the state’s elections department, said turnout was higher than expected in some localities, forcing some precincts to rely on supplemental ballots after they ran out of normal ones.

“We saw pretty high turnout in some of these areas,” he said. “The good news is, there are procedures in place to ensure that voters can get ballots and that they can get ballots to the precincts in a timely manner so that voting can go on unimpeded.”

About 1.2 million Virginians cast their ballots in person or by mail between Sept. 17 and Oct. 30, only the second year the state has allowed no-excuse absentee voting for such an extended period. Preliminary exit polling estimated turnout at 53.3 percent, smashing the 47 percent mark set in 2017.

The governor’s race also broke records for fundraising in Virginia, with the two major-party candidates raising roughly $115 million combined, according to the nonpartisan Virginia Public Access Project.

While Republicans hadn’t won statewide in Virginia since 2009, the state also has a record of electing a governor from the opposite party of whoever is in the White House — broken only once in the past 40 years, by McAuliffe in 2013.

While he was too Trumpist for my tastes, Youngkin seems to have figured out how to keep the MAGA folks in the coalition while not scaring off moderate suburbanites.

NYT (“Glenn Youngkin’s Journey From the Heights of Finance to the Top Tier of G.O.P. Politics“):

One year ago, Glenn Youngkin was well known in the world of high finance, but almost a complete cipher in politics.

After a remarkable upset in the race for governor of Virginia, Mr. Youngkin is the newest star of the Republican Party, whose campaign will be reverse-engineered for its lessons by both parties, and whose political future may hardly be limited to four years in the cream-colored Executive Mansion in Richmond.

A natural campaigner running his first race, Mr. Youngkin found a way to enlist both the Republican base still in thrall to Donald J. Trump and less ideological Republicans who rejected the party in the Trump era. Furious Democratic attacks that he was a Trumpian wolf in suburban-dad fleece never quite stuck because, in both biography and manner, Mr. Youngkin did not fit the former president’s bullying, self-aggrandizing profile. His ability to direct multiple messages — red meat to the G.O.P. base via interviews with right-wing media, and a less divisive pitch to swing voters, including on parental input for schools — will serve as a blueprint for his party in the midterms.

With a personal fortune estimated by Forbes at $440 million, Mr. Youngkin contributed $20 million to his own bid. That lavish sum paid for top-tier G.O.P. consultants and an avalanche of TV ads, and it prompted speculation that Mr. Youngkin’s sights were set beyond Virginia, where governors must step down after a single term.

His victory running as a conservative in a seemingly Democratic redoubt — no Republican had won statewide in Virginia in a dozen years — could make Mr. Youngkin, 54, a contender within his party nationally if its voters decide they are ready to move on from Mr. Trump and Trumpism.

During the campaign, Mr. Youngkin blanketed the airwaves with ads attacking his Democratic opponent, former Gov. Terry McAuliffe. But at the outset, the ads introduced the political unknown as someone from modest means, whose father lost a job, forcing a teenage Glenn to find work washing dishes. The family moved to Virginia Beach, where he attended a private day school, Norfolk Academy.

A basketball scholarship earned him a ride to Rice University in Houston, a Division I program where he mostly warmed the bench and was listed as 6 feet 7 inches (he now puts his height at 6-foot-5). He later attended Harvard Business School. His career followed the well-trod path of former varsity athletes from elite private colleges who head into finance.


In the crowded Republican primary field, with most candidates vying for a Trump base that largely believed the falsehood that the 2020 election was stolen because of fraud, Mr. Youngkin made “election integrity” his top issue.

He acknowledged only after securing the nomination in May that President Biden had won. Mr. Trump’s endorsement, which came soon after, was “an honor,” Mr. Youngkin said. Mr. Trump at one point called him “a great gentleman” and offered to campaign together. But Mr. Youngkin dodged rallies at which Mr. Trump phoned in his support, while the former president continued to fan election conspiracy theories.

Glossing lightly over his own policy priorities during the early part of the race, Mr. Youngkin soft-pedaled traditional conservative issues like gun rights and abortion, at one point confiding to a liberal activist with a hidden mic that he had to downplay abortion to court independent voters. The National Rifle Association skipped an endorsement in July after Mr. Youngkin failed to fill out a questionnaire about his views.

Instead, Mr. Youngkin found his own galvanizing issue in some parents’ frustration with public schools, beginning with Covid-driven closures, and extending to conservatives’ belief that classwork has become overly conscious of racial differences.

While he has promised to end a sales tax on groceries and to cut regulations to spur new businesses, Mr. Youngkin’s best known pledge is to ban critical race theory in schools on Day 1, even though that graduate-school thesis about the role of racism in American institutions has little impact on K-12 classrooms, educators say. To Democrats, the issue has been no more than an appeal to white voters’ grievances.

Whether Mr. Youngkin’s outreach to conservatives on cultural issues came from the heart, embodying the anger that drove the grass roots, or whether it was a convenient garment he put on along with his trademark red vest, hardly mattered in the end to Republicans and many independent voters.

WaPo’s Paul Schwartzman gets perhaps a bit too carried away, proclaiming “With Youngkin victorious, a post-Trump Virginia returns as a swing state.”

For months, the political establishment predicted that Virginia’s gubernatorial race was Democrat Terry McAuliffe’s to lose.

Gov. Ralph Northam (D) had won the state by nine points in 2017 and President Biden had trounced Donald Trump by 10 points last year. Those victories added grist to the prevailing perception that the commonwealth was no longer welcoming to Republicans running statewide.

Yet in the first election since Trump left Washington, Republican Glenn Youngkin’s victory over McAuliffe on Tuesday upended any notion that Virginia is a Democratic stronghold.

A dozen years after last winning statewide races in the commonwealth, the Republicans were heading for an apparent sweep of Virginia’s top three races, including the campaigns for lieutenant governor and attorney general.

The results demonstrated that Virginia’s identity as a Democratic safe harbor was fleeting, existing mainly while Trump was the nation’s dominant political force, despite recent election results suggesting otherwise and demographic shifts in Northern Virginia over the past two decades that had helped Democrats.

“Virginia was a purple state for quite some time and was always a purple state underneath,” said Ben Tribbett, a Democratic consultant. “But in the Trump era, we became a blue state in reaction to his policies. We will go back to being a swing state going forward.”

The results Tuesday were reminiscent of the 2009 election, when Republican Robert F. McDonnell became governor and led a GOP sweep of the state’s top three offices. Since then, Republican Ken Cuccinelli lost the gubernatorial race to McAuliffe by 2.5 points in 2013. The following year, Republican Ed Gillespie came within a percentage point of upsetting incumbent Democratic Sen. Mark R. Warner.

After Trump’s election, the Democrats’ victory margins grew dramatically in subsequent races — that is, until Tuesday night, when the party appeared to be shut out.

This is just too simplistic. Trump was not a force in national, much less Virginia, politics in 2013. And Virginia voted for Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012. And elected Mark Warner and Tim Kaine to successive terms as governor in 2001 and 2005—and then to the Senate in 2008 and 2012. And erstwhile Republican turned Democrat Jim Webb preceded Kaine in the Senate. You simply can’t tie any of that to Trump.

But this is likely right:

“Virginia is a state that leans blue, but it’s not a slam dunk for Democrats,” said Doug Heye, a Republican consultant. “So often we try to put these things in boxes — red and blue. But these things are often fluid.”

That Youngkin ran such a robust campaign in Virginia, Heye said, validates a strategy that future Republican candidates can embrace in the commonwealth and perhaps beyond.

“If you’re a Republican and you’re trashing Trump, your days are numbered,” Heye said. “He didn’t want to alienate the base. He wanted to talk about things that were affecting families every day, things like the grocery tax, job creation and inflation. Would that work in Alabama? No. Montana? No. Virginia? Yes.”

Most of Virginia, territorially, is still a Southern state culturally but the Northern Virginia suburbs and Hampton-Newport News-Virginia Beach areas have had huge population influxes over the last quarter-century. Not only does this mean a lot of transplants with different attitudes—including a lot of South Asian and other nonwhite immigrants—it’s hard to run against Big Government in areas that are prospering from government spending.

The Bulwark’s Tim Miller (“Virginia Results: Giving Up on Rural America Is Proving a Nightmare for Democrats“) makes an interesting argument:

About a year ago I wrote about the big “trade” that had taken place in our politics. Democrats were picking up former Republican “red dogs” who live in the suburbs. Republicans were getting formerly working-class union types who live in the exurbs and rural America.

These shifts had been happening slowly for a long time but they were supercharged when Donald Trump came on the scene, energizing the working-class whites and horrifying suburban moms—and by 2020, their husbands as well. This change seemed to solidify the realignment setting up a divided country for political trench warfare in the years ahead.

Fast-forward to the first major state-wide election since the former guy was dispatched to a South Florida retirement as an investor in social media Potemkin villages and what we found should be extremely alarming for Democrats. In Tuesday’s results coming out the races in Virginia and New Jersey, many of the suburban red dogs and independents who had been powering the blue wave backslid towards the Republicans, while the rural whites continued their march rightward.

In the next few days, barrels of ink will be spilled writing about what happened in the burbs and the merits of the CRT wars, but for present purposes, here’s the main takeaway: Republicans actually came up with a plan to eat into the Democrats’ new coalition and that plan worked. They didn’t throw up their hands and decide the burbs were lost forever. They keyed in on an issue where the Democrats were out of step with the views of some of their voters and won on it. That’s Politics 101.

Meanwhile the Democrats don’t even seem to be trying to do the reverse—to chip away at the GOP hold on working-class whites—despite the fact that there are plenty of potential opportunities to wedge them.

His colleague Jim Swift (“How McAuliffe Lost Virginia“) echoes my earlier observations:

McAuliffe made mistake after mistake on the campaign trail, most notoriously his debate line “I don’t think parents should be telling schools what they should teach.” His opponent, Glenn Youngkin, was walking a tightrope between keeping the MAGA base happy and riling up the suburban Northern Virginia voters about schools and critical race theory. McAuliffe’s debate flub was a gigantic gift to Youngkin


McAuliffe, as uncharming and uninspiring a candidate as the Democratic donor echelon could construct, never regained his footing. He staked his bid on the fact that Youngkin was endorsed by Donald Trump. That is a valid criticism, and could in theory have worked in Virginia—as a supplement for a solid, substantial campaign. But McAuliffe had “no big memorable proposal” for his campaign, so he made Youngkin’s supposed Trumpiness the core of his message. He sounded like a broken record: Youngkin and Trump, Youngkin and Trump, Youngkin and Trump. Virginia voters were unconvinced.

Three other brief takeaways from Tuesday night:

(1) One lopsided aspect of the campaign is striking. In the final weeks, McAuliffe brought in some of the Democratic party’s big guns to help out his campaign: Joe Biden. Barack Obama. Tim Kaine. By contrast, Youngkin didn’t want Donald Trump to stump for him. The Democratic big guns sure didn’t seem very big this time around.

(2) Let’s be clear: What Glenn Youngkin achieved is impressive, but it will likely prove hard to replicate elsewhere. Had COVID-19 not existed and had the Virginia GOP not run a bastard primary to screw over Amanda Chase, he would probably not be the nominee.

(3) Downticket, Winsome Sears defeated Hala Ayala in the race for lieutenant governor. I watched Ayala at a McAuliffe rally in Dumfries and she was impressive, but it seemed that Democrats kept her locked away while Sears, who might have been a little toxic to Youngkin (her campaign posters featured her, a former Marine, carrying an assault rifle) was campaigning downstate. That may have very well paid off for Youngkin, who did not campaign with her often. In Virginia, you don’t vote for the ticket, but the individual office. Of the three statewide Democratic candidates—for governor, lieutenant governor, and attorney general—Ayala’s loss is the most striking. Whether she lost due to political malfeasance or a lack of building her own brand, we may never know. She was the new blood for Democrats.

As a general rule, candidates for chief executive ought run for something rather than against someone. McAuliffe failed in that regard and Youngkin just wasn’t scary enough for it to work.

The Intelligencer’s Ben Jacobs (“GOP Insiders: ‘Joe Biden Was More Relevant in the Race Than Donald Trump’“):

A half-dozen GOP consultants and operatives shared their assessment of the race with Intelligencer on the condition of anonymity.

It wasn’t just that Youngkin won but he was able to defang the attack that Democrats used against Republican candidates for the past half decade, tying them to Trump. McAuliffe used this relentlessly. One jibed: “​​I don’t know what Terry’s message was? ‘I’m not Donald Trump and the guy that I’m going against is Donald Trump?'”

McAuliffe’s attempt to tie Youngkin to Trump and use the former president as a boogeyman seems to be no longer effective, they said: “It’s clear that the blueprint of talking about Donald Trump all the time when he’s not in office is not a winning message particularly in a state that Joe Biden won by 10 points.” (Then again, as one operative noted, Trump didn’t bother to contest the state, so that margin may have inflated just how blue Virginia truly is.)

In fact, they said, Democrats had a greater problem at the top of their party than Republicans did. Biden’s sagging approval ratings, plus a bumpy post-COVID economic recovery dogged by rising inflation, made voters sour on McAuliffe, who was practically an incumbent trying to hold the governor’s mansion for his party (four years after residing there himself). One Republican operative involved in the race noted that Biden’s slide in the polls in August coincided with McAuliffe slipping at the same time. “Joe Biden was more relevant in the race than Donald Trump,” they said.

Politics is still local though, as another longtime operative in the state noted, and Biden’s falling polling numbers were one part of a “perfect storm” that included “the lawlessness we saw throughout Virginia in the streets of Richmond last summer” and “the overreach at a state and local level as we saw with parents concerns in Loudoun County and around Virginia.”

Despite their glee, Republicans didn’t think everything was transferable to the midterm elections next year. “I don’t think it was critical race theory and education that caused this wave,” one of the Virginia operatives noted. “What caused it was this lackluster campaign by McAuliffe and a candidate with unlimited money who spent it accordingly.”

His colleague Ed Kilgore is more pessimistic (“MAGA Without the Madness Wins“):

Youngkin overcame a solid McAuliffe lead in all the early polls and managed to keep Republicans enthusiastic without getting too cosy with Trump, who endorsed him but was only really visible in the campaign in McAuliffe ads that sought to tie the GOP candidate to the leader of his national party.

McAuliffe lost, however, not due to the sort of collapse in Democratic turnout so many had feared as a product of an “enthusiasm gap” fed by Democratic problems in Congress or disappointment in Biden. Turnout was actually strong across the state: Youngkin won by improving significantly on Trump’s vote in both GOP rural strongholds and in exurban swing areas where he was either less threatening or more attractive than the 45th president.


The campaign that led to Youngkin’s win was long, expensive and unpredictable, featuring two candidates with modestly net positive favorability ratings and plenty of money heading into the battle. Youngkinthe very wealthy CEO of the investment firm the Carlyle Group, won the GOP nomination in May by being just MAGA enough to win Trump voters while coming across as a traditional Republican favoring limited government and pro-business measures. As the general election developed, Youngkin continued taking a businessman-outsider stance while muting his earlier Trumpiness. For all his temperamental centrism, however, he aggressively deployed two school-based national culture-war themes, attacking the alleged teaching of “critical race theory” (a big cause among exurban conservatives in vote-rich Northern Virginia), and rules accommodating transgender students. He also battened on a more general anxiety among parents about the impact on learning of the pandemic and school shutdowns. McAuliffe played into Youngkin’s strategy by saying in one of the two candidate debates that parents shouldn’t be telling schools what to teach (a quote taken far out of context), which the Republican exploited by holding “Parents Matter” rallies.

I’m rather dubious of this analysis, though. For example, for all the national attention that the literal fights with school boards over CRT in neighboring Loudon County, McAuliffe carried it 55-44. Then again, that’s 10 points worse than Dems performed in 2017. But it’s too early to tell how much of this was on the issues versus the Dems having a more attractive candidate and the GOP a much less attractive one in that contest.

I continue to be skeptical that an off-off year election tells us all that much about next year’s midterms, much less the 2024 Presidential race. Masking, vaccinations, school boards, and the rest are unlikely to be lasting issues a year, much less three years, from now. I have no idea at all what will replace them as the issues most salient to voters. Three years is an eon in American politics.

Youngkin is a more “traditional” Republican than, say, Florida Governor Rich DeSantis, who seems to otherwise be the leading non-Donald Trump candidate for the 2024 nomination. But he remains too Trumpy for my tastes. I may well have been less enthusiastic in voting for McAuliffe yesterday morning than I was for Hillary Clinton five years ago. Mostly, though, that’s because Youngkin isn’t as odious as Trump.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Matt Bernius says:

    Last night the Atlantic’s Derek Thompson tweeted this important peice of historic context:

    For the every spicy take on Virginia you read (CRT is the new southern strategy, all politics is education politics, etc) spare a thought for the electoral thermostat.

    The WH’s party has lost *all but one* VA gov race since the 1970s. That’s a 1-11 record. @SteveKornacki

    The point is not “there is nothing to learn here, don’t analyze the race, politics is just one big dumb pendulum.”

    The point is there are probably many reasonable takeaways from VA and one of them is that, actually, politics really is just super pendulumy.

    The fact that 2013 was the only abortion year make me wonder if it would be more useful to look at what made that year different than what made this cycle different.

  2. Raoul says:

    McAuliffe ran a pretty bad campaign. I recall seeing one his TV ads with where he is talking and a shadow covers his head. Real bad production values. I think Greg Sargent is right about the duality of the Republican campaign: they can run a stealth campaign for the frothy right on some venues and a mainstream campaign on other venues. Anyways, I do find it ironic Youngkin ran ads against exposing high schoolers to violent sex in books while continually airing an ad about rapes in public schools (Lee Atwater would be proud). Finally, in a weird way, the GOP is trying so hard to get out of the Trump morass, that Youngkin has been presented as the non-Trump. For some his election is seeing as a repudiation of Trump, I would not be surprised if he runs for president in 2024.

  3. Raoul says:

    @Matt Bernius: 2013 may be the exception that proves the rule. The GOP candidate was Cuccinelli, an absolute loon who made a name for himself by passing plastic fetuses to other members of the legislature while they were sitting in session. He was also unabashedly anti-immigrant and later on went on to create several conspiracy driven voting fraud commissions. I mean there was not a right wing meme he would not touch. Anyways, in 2013 that this wacko came within 3% of beating McAuliffe tells you more about the latter than the former.

  4. Kylopod says:

    @Raoul: There’s another element that’s been somewhat forgotten as a factor in that race: the 2013 government shutdown, which happened just a few weeks before Election Day. It caused a pretty massive blowback against the GOP, who were widely blamed for it.

  5. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    He wanted to talk about things that were affecting families every day, things like the grocery tax, job creation and inflation.

    But mostly he talked about CRT, a Trumpist/racist conspiracy theory, and a bald-faced lie.

  6. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    Youngkin is a more “traditional” Republican than, say, Florida Governor Rich DeSantis, who seems to otherwise be the leading non-Donald Trump candidate for the 2024 nomination. But he remains too Trumpy for my tastes.

    Last night doesn’t bode well for DeathSantis. It seems like the message is you can’t win by being Trumpy.

  7. Lounsbury says:

    In the next few days, barrels of ink will be spilled writing about what happened in the burbs and the merits of the CRT wars, but for present purposes, here’s the main takeaway: Republicans actually came up with a plan to eat into the Democrats’ new coalition and that plan worked. They didn’t throw up their hands and decide the burbs were lost forever. They keyed in on an issue where the Democrats were out of step with the views of some of their voters and won on it. That’s Politics 101.

    Meanwhile the Democrats don’t even seem to be trying to do the reverse—to chip away at the GOP hold on working-class whites—despite the fact that there are plenty of potential opportunities to wedge them.

    emphasis added.

    One rather gets the impression from American Lefties commentary in the political sites like here that the white working class voters with their unfortunate cultural conservatism and not-considered-base-by-Activists are only things to be sneered at for their racism. Or hand-waived away in favour of dreams of a People of Colour (in whatever trendy acronym of fashion) wave driven by identarian politics.

  8. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    The other takeaway from last night is that the 4th Estate failed this country, once again.
    Republicans were allowed to flail away on CRT, and the media never called them out for it. Republicans should have been forced to tell the truth, and held to account for their lies. But once again Journalists acted as stenographers.

  9. CSK says:

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl:
    Trump has turned this around to say that McAuliffe lost because all he did was talk about Trump, and that’s why Youngkin won.

  10. CSK says:

    Trump is also thanking his “base” (and they ARE base) for coming out to vote for Youngkin.

  11. HarvardLaw92 says:


    To be fair, he’s not entirely wrong. McAuliffe (as far as I can tell anyway) ran an abysmal campaign that was pretty much singularly focused on attacking Youngkin & attempting to link him to Trump.

  12. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    It might have helped if Dems had passed some legislation that McAuliffe could sell.

    Admit it everyone…isn’t it refreshing that Dems aren’t whining and crying about a rigged and stolen election.

  13. gVOR08 says:

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl:

    Republicans should have been forced to tell the truth, and held to account for their lies. But once again Journalists acted as stenographers.

    GOPs have FOX, WSJ, Sinclair, et al. Ds have MSNBC. The supposedly liberal MSM just want drama and a narrative. Of late they’ve been pushing hard on the Dems-in-Disarray narrative.

    Back in 2016, when Politico still had comments, I’d sometimes count headlines and bitch they had ten Trump headlines to every Clinton headline. Last time I looked at their home page almost all the front page headlines were Dems in disarray.

  14. Modulo Myself says:

    I said it another thread: many people are not doing well in this country and they don’t know why they are not doing well. Crime (or at least murder) has gone way up, and the economy is a complete shit-show. But somehow, this election was about Critical Race Theory and how parents have rights. For this to make sense to a voter, even in a non-hyperbolic way, says a great deal about what that voter is experiencing and it is way different than my experience as a voter. And I don’t think it’s only about race.

  15. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl:

    It might have helped if Dems had passed some legislation that McAuliffe could sell.

    Oh, no argument at all on that one. I made the point in another thread that the party has been the poster child for dysfunction, fractionalism, and competing agendas since it took control in January. This “all (nebulously defined) infrastructure bills all the time” thing (and their failure to actually do anything) has been a disaster from the standpoint of optics.

  16. Kylopod says:

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl:

    Admit it everyone…isn’t it refreshing that Dems aren’t whining and crying about a rigged and stolen election.

    In terms of substance? Yes. The downside is that we do the traditional thing parties do after a bad election, which is tear each other apart through self-righteous finger-pointing. Say what you will about the stolen-election narrative, it ain’t producing disunity on the GOP side, largely because the dissenters are being either cast out of the party or pounded into submission. That’s the GOP way, and it’s not totally ineffective.

    Hell, we can’t even do that with our stolen-election narratives. The 2000 debacle didn’t lead Dems to unite in revolt against the GOP. But then, that narrative had the disadvantage of being actually based in reality and not, say, in turning Al Gore into some god-emperor who could do no wrong and to whom everyone must bend the knee.

  17. gVOR08 says:

    James, I agree Dems need to be for something, but let me ask a question. You’re in VA, I’m not. You saw Youngkin’s ads, I only see what hit national news. There was a passing reference in one of the quoted articles to grocery sales taxes and cutting regulation. Mostly I saw reference to him being against CRT and “beloved” and rapes by boys in skirts in girls bathrooms. (I understand the real story is the girl snuck her boyfriend in to make out and it got out of hand, and it was some years ago before anyone even worried about bathroom policy for transsexuals.) So I agree Ds should be for something. But all this negative campaigning sure seems to work for Rs. So what was Youngkin for?

  18. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    I also think the total failure to hold anyone to account for January 6th is as big a problem as not passing any legislation. Who wants to elect a bunch of feckless bureaucrats?
    Letting corrupt politicians, who tied to overthrow the Government, run free and rub it in your face is not a good look.

  19. Jim Brown 32 says:

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl: Sure they did. I could go to 1000 websites or watch CNN or MSNBC about why CRT is a hoax. (McCauliff should have used that exact descriptor BTW).

    CRT energized a part of the electorate that doesn’t watch those stations or reads those sites.

    Your beef is that Conservative media didn’t call themselves on their own creation?

    Democrats fundamentally dont understand how to fight in todays media environment. I don’t know, maybe Republicans pay better for better media strategies. You dont run from an issue that evokes fear. You embrace and transmute.

    The response to CRT doesn’t start with “No” or “Yes, but…”– It starts with “Yes, and…” or “OMG, Im getting to the bottom of this..”

    Republicans have figured out that Dems struggle with hitting the curve ball so they’ll keep throwing it. Dems need a different hitting coach. They can only hit a belt high fastball.

  20. Modulo Myself says:

    Look at the breakdown for white women in Virginia:

    VA 2020: 58% Biden, 41% Trump
    VA 2021: 62% McAuliffe, 38% Youngkin

    VA 2020: 56% Trump, 44% Biden
    VA 2021: 75% Youngkin, 25% McAuliffe

    2022 is going to be all about the evil academic plot to teach white children to hate themselves.

  21. Jc says:

    Another northern Virginian here. Youngin won with pretty much no real platform. Basically I’ll ban something that is not even taught, I’ll reduce your taxes and I’ll get some charter schools. That is pretty much it. But Dems are complacent and ran a bad campaign. The parents schools line, CRT, these things they did not respond to directly and just went, he like Trump, come on out and vote for us. Turnout was high for a VA gov race, but nowhere near 2020, 16 or even 12 general elections. I give it to GOP they are flat out more consistent and know how to rally their base and moderates, even if it is done with lies and fear mongering

  22. Jim Brown 32 says:

    I might add that I believe Dems will have a working class problem with voters of all colors in a non-Trump environment.

    Its counter intuitive…but working class and the poor simply dont care all that much for programs. Sure, they like the outcome, but the bureaucracy and processes…forca lot of people the just isn’t worth the squeeze unless you are at the bottom of the barrel with no option. Otherwise people will simply get by and the Programs will help people desperate for the help and people gaming the system.

    Culture at this level Trumps policy. Policy is the catnip of intellectually inclined people. Everyone lives in the world of culture and entertainment.

  23. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    @Jim Brown 32:
    I agree that Dems don’t know how to fight. 1,000%.
    But the fact is that almost every mainstream news outlet simply repeated the right wing messaging that the plainly racist CRT panic was just “concerns about education”.

  24. Gustopher says:

    I’m just going to blame Joe Manchin for blowing up Build Back Better, and the Bipartisan Infrastucture Fingy (I know it’s BIF, but I just woke up, don’t make me remember the F) the day before, and be done with it.

    Democrats have to deliver or people won’t vote for them. Thanks Manchin.

  25. Lounsbury says:

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl: Aside from political junkies, no, that’s nonsense. But apparently you lot learned nothing from Miller report experience.

  26. Lounsbury says:

    @Jim Brown 32: Yes I think you are broadly correct. Infrastructure, old school, would have been a nice solid concrete thing to sell and bring to working class a kind of old appeal rooted in hands-on culture.

    Or one can whinge on about how MSM is prejudiced against one and dream of the magical day when media will respond to intellectual abstractions.

  27. Gustopher says:

    @Jim Brown 32:

    The response to CRT doesn’t start with “No” or “Yes, but…”– It starts with “Yes, and…” or “OMG, Im getting to the bottom of this..”

    At the national level, congressional hearings would be nice. Because the emptiness and racistness of the Republican arguments will come through. Put them in a spot where they have to object to concrete things and they look like racist idiots. And that’s footage for attack ads.

  28. Jay L Gischer says:

    I find myself wondering about that 10 point shift from Biden to Youngkin. Does this represent people changing their minds from D to R, or just people being less enthusiastic? Is there some empirical data that can give us better information than everyone’s hot take?

    I mean, the behavior of political professionals suggest that it’s about enthusiasm and driving turnout. And they are reasonably well positioned. And yet, they are also likely to want to keep details to themselves.

    I find it interesting that while “enthusiasm gap” was also used to describe the California recall, that gap didn’t really show up once the votes were counted. Do we think this is because of ubiquitous vote-by-mail, or maybe a misjudging of the CA electorate?

  29. Lounsbury says:

    @Modulo Myself: Well then you need to develop a comm and campaign approach to neutralize and change – one not involving wailing and gnashing of teeth about how the Media betrayed you / the country.

    @Jay L Gischer: You will need data to see the balance of the actual turnout of course- and the change – some of the posts suggest the floating Soccer Mom significantly changed, particularly the non-Uni educated.

    Modifying approach and messanging to not be so easy to target (the massive own goal of the statement about parents not controlling what children are taught of course, but also defang the cultural war approach)

  30. Lounsbury says:

    @Jim Brown 32: Quite right but it appears the favoured strategy among the Lefty Left commentariat is to wait and bemoan how the MSM is not in their corner or to entirely miss your point and propose Left academic responses

  31. Pat Curley says:

    You don’t think vaccinations, masking and CRT are going to be issues next year? Three years from now it is possible the first two will have gone away, but a year from now we’ll be on booster shot #3, kids will still be wearing masks in schools in states run by Democrats and the education establishment will continue to push for a CRT-inspired curriculum.

  32. Michael Reynolds says:

    CRT translates in the common vernacular as ‘white people bad.’ That’s how it looks and sounds to a lot of people, not all of them racists. I’ve argued before that this is a losing issue, and the net effect has been that the teaching of history is virtually outlawed and Dems lost ground. Similarly, Defund was political malpractice. If we lose the mid-terms it will be in large part because of CRT and Defund, and the general weariness with wokeness.

    None of that should be a surprise to anyone.

    But equally at fault are Manchin and Sinema who have cut the party off at the knees through corruption, stupidity and clownishness. The impotence of the mainstream Democrats and the cluelessness of progressives share in this defeat.

  33. Rick DeMent says:

    That the GOP is much more homogeneous than Democrats is a huge advantage. This is also the reason that democrats can’t fight like republicans, there is no one set of issues that really animates all Democrats like Gun, Abortion and Race does the Republicans. In fact there are issues that are popular with large sections of the Democratic party that are actually a turn-off to other Democrats.

    Youngkin didn’t have to run a great campaign (honestly where were his ideas?), the right wing media did it for him, where the evil mainstream media dutifully gave them aid and comfort by giving the CRT nonsense legitimacy. Yougkin can already score points for getting rid of CRT because no one is teaching it now. Win!

    VA 2020: 58% Biden, 41% Trump
    VA 2021: 62% McAuliffe, 38% Youngkin

    VA 2020: 56% Trump, 44% Biden
    VA 2021: 75% Youngkin, 25% McAuliffe

    What this tells me is that Trump’s loss was because he lost a suburban Republican woman by being a vile person. Youngkin wasn’t Trump and the obvious racial bigotry surrounding the CRT issue was ok by them. I mean when their kids were being force feed Lost Cause nonsense no one batted an eye.

  34. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Rick DeMent:
    You cannot credibly cry racism when you simultaneously elect a Black Lt. Gov and a Hispanic AG. Not all opposition to CRT comes down to racism. I’ll predict that when we start seeing the data we’ll find a larger than usual Black and Hispanic vote for Youngkin.

    White male Youngkin: 1,674,894
    Black female Lt. Gov Sears: 1,670,342
    Hispanic AG Miyares: 1,660,556

    The three vote totals are nearly identical.

    Of course racists still exist and still define the core of the GOP, but Virginians did not suddenly become more racist.

  35. CSK says:

    There’s an article at by William Saletan positing that “Youngkin won this race despite Trump, not because of him.”

    Saletan cites a number of surveys and polls to support his contention. One that struck me in particular indicated that only 9% of voters said Trump’s support made them more likely to vote for Youngkin. Nine percent.

  36. Jc says:

    @Michael Reynolds: maybe …maybe a few more showed up, but I think the main drivers were the “parents should not be telling schools what to teach” meme ads and the CRT myth. CRT is not part of any K-12 curriculum anywhere…but just the inkling of discussions on race in any classroom environment sets off hysteria. The parents comment lost him a lot of women ( he could have crafted a better reply) and overall there is no enthusiasm for McAuliffe. Dems needed 2 million to turn out to win, which is 400k less than 2020 election, and could not do it. Now we have a Private Equity guy running the state and an LG who would prefer everyone was armed. What could go wrong? But kudos to them for running a more diverse ticket, was a historical win. Will see what happens over the next four years

  37. Rick DeMent says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    Of course racists still exist and still define the core of the GOP, but Virginians did not suddenly become more racist.

    I didn’t say they did, my point was that it seems to me white, non-collage educated women were more troubled by Trump’s misogyny than they are about Youngkin kicking up dust about CRT. Like I said, when was the last time you ever heard of people in the south having a fit over lost cause mythology being taught in schools? Never. They didn’t get more racist, they already were. They just found Trump more disgusting last time around.

    Do you honestly think that any of the parents losing their minds at PTO meetings would give a rat’s ass about their kids being taught that slavery actually helped back people and that the Civil war was just about states rights? I know for a fact you know better.

  38. Lounsbury says:

    @Jc: Despite Left arch literalness, it is rather clear that CRT as a phrase achieves its traction as a symbolic stand-in for a popular sentiment that Left progressive cultural politics are too far from the broad public’s sentiments.

    Left academician style eggheadness and arch literalness about the subject hardly helps in achieving a good rhetorical response and ends up being rather a self-deception (as in writing off the entire backlash to simply Trumpist style racism).

  39. Jim Brown 32 says:

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl: From a counter messaging standpoint…it’s not relevant if it’s racist or not.

    Do Dems want to be right or do they want to win? You can’t use reality based weapons in a fantasy land fight. The people you want de-energized don’t work that way.

  40. wr says:

    I do find it totally adorable that whatever happened in this election, so many of our regulars find that the results prove their preconceived notions about Democrats entirely true. It’s kind of like hanging out with a dozen Chuck Todds!

  41. Jc says:

    @Lounsbury: what is funny is a nva mom dem gave a better response on fox news yesterday about the topic than the dem candidates have. Which is sad. Also sad that fox lady said she would have to fact check her statement that Columbus killed indigenous people. It was a mistake by dems not to engage that topic more, instead they tried the Trump card, which obviously failed

  42. John430 says:

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl: But mostly he talked about CRT, a Trumpist/racist conspiracy theory, and a bald-faced lie.
    Boy, talk about mixing a truth with a lie…CRT is a racist, conspiracy theory but not part of Trump’s doing. That CRT is a bald-faced lie is, however, true. Even its author, Kendi, speaks out of both sides of his mouth about it.
    I should also take this moment to point out that Trump stopped being President several months ago. Why do Democrats seem to ALWAYS be running against him in 2021?

  43. Dude Kembro says:

    @Modulo Myself:

    Crime (or at least murder) has gone way up, and the economy is a complete shit-show.

    Neither of these is accurate, but people believe it because Republicans fearmongers say so, the press goes along with it, and Democrats don’t have a president who brag tweets every time the stock market sets a record.

    The economy on many metrics is decent, from wage growth to stocks to unemploykent to poverty levels. Overall crime is down in 2021. That nobody knows this is another Democratic messaging failure.

    Fortunately, Virginia polling showed 55-60% of voters rating the economy as good or better. That alone may account for McAuliffe keeping it close.

  44. Dude Kembro says:


    Trump stopped being President several months ago. Why do Democrats seem to ALWAYS be running against him in 2021?

    When did Republicans stop going to Trump rallies, stop placing him at the top of 2024 primary polls, and stop catering to his sore loser election lies with fraudits and vote suppression laws?

  45. Dude Kembro says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    You cannot credibly cry racism when you simultaneously elect a Black Lt. Gov and a Hispanic AG.

    Of course you can. One need not be any certain race to be a vector of racism. Tokens have always provided cover for bigotry.

    May not be the case in this instance, but we’ll see. Ask black voters in Kentucky about their attorney general’s gross misconduct with the Breonna Taylor grand jury, and then whether they think one can cry racism with a black AG. Systemic racism in blackface is still systemic racism (and, btw, a CRT analysis would suggest that the race and personal biases of the specific individuals within a system is largely irrelevant, that it’s the outcomes that matter).