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Politics The Virginia governor's race is shaping up as a test of the state's Democratic strength and Biden

05:45  24 october  2021
05:45  24 october  2021 Source:   businessinsider.com

Former Carlyle Group CEO could knock Democrats out of Virginia's governor's office. Here's what to know

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The Virginia governor ' s race is shaping up as a test of the state ' s Democratic strength and Biden . Virginia Democratic gubernatorial nominee and former Gov. In northern Virginia , where McAuliffe and Youngkin both reside, Democrats have had striking success in recent election cycles. In 2019, northern Virginia boasted a population of 2.8 million residents and the region's votes made up 32% of the total statewide count in last year's presidential election, according to The Washington Post.

The election for governor of Virginia is in a little over ten days and Democrats are starting to freak out. Two things have unfolded in this race . Democrat Terry McAuliffe has proved to be a terrible candidate and Republican Glenn Youngkin has proved to be a very good one. A creeping sense of worry among Democrats about the Virginia governor ’ s race spilled into the open on Wednesday, after the release of a new Monmouth University poll showing former Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe deadlocked with Republican Glenn Youngkin less than two weeks before Election Day…

Virginia Democratic gubernatorial nominee and former Gov. Terry McAuliffe, left, and Republican gubernatorial nominee Glenn Youngkin participate in a debate at Northern Virginia Community College, in Alexandria, Va., on September 28, 2021. AP Photo/Cliff Owen © AP Photo/Cliff Owen Virginia Democratic gubernatorial nominee and former Gov. Terry McAuliffe, left, and Republican gubernatorial nominee Glenn Youngkin participate in a debate at Northern Virginia Community College, in Alexandria, Va., on September 28, 2021. AP Photo/Cliff Owen

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ormer Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe once wrestled a 280-pound alligator to secure a $15,000 campaign donation for President Jimmy Carter's 1980 reelection campaign. In 2009, the former Democratic National Committee Chairman ran unsuccessfully for his party's gubernatorial nomination, but came back to win the nomination - and the governorship - four years later. During his time in the Executive Mansion from 2014 to 2018, McAuliffe faced a solidly-conservative GOP legislature that was resistant to many of his legislative proposals. However, as the longtime Democratic power broker seeks to win his old job back in the November general election, he faces a test unlike any that he's encountered in the past - with his race serving as a barometer of the current political alignment of the Old Dominion.

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© AP Photo/Cliff Owen Virginia Democratic gubernatorial nominee and former Gov. Terry McAuliffe, left, and Republican gubernatorial nominee Glenn Youngkin participate in a debate at Northern Virginia Community College, in Alexandria, Va ., on September 28, 2021. The Republican approach, along with Biden ’ s slumping numbers in the state , have made the Virginia election a real race in the closing weeks of the campaign. Despite the state ’ s recent Democratic -leaning orientation, Quentin Kidd, director of the Wason Center for Civic Leadership at Christopher Newport University in Newport News

Obama and McAuliffe, who served as the state ' s governor from 2014 to 2018, spoke before a cheering crowd at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond with just 10 days to go before the closely watched, tight Nov. 2 election. The off-year race is seen as a barometer of how the country might decide Youngkin' s strength in the polls during the first weeks of early voting has worried Democrats , who anticipated a comfortable lead in a state that has trended blue in recent years. Democrats flipped the Virginia legislature in 2019 and Trump lost the state by 10 percentage points in November 2020

Democrats have been ascendant in the state for over a decade now - with key wins that included former President Barack Obama's 2008 and 2012 victories, Ralph Northam's 2017 gubernatorial victory against former Republican National Committee Chairman Ed Gillespie, the party taking full control of the state legislature after the 2019 elections, and now-President Joe Biden's double-digit triumph against then-President Donald Trump last fall.

Republicans - who in recent years have nominated a string of candidates that struggled with the ever-growing suburban vote - have not won a statewide race in Virginia since 2009. But this year, GOP delegates nominated Glenn Youngkin, a former private equity executive and first-time political candidate who has so far been able to speak to conservative issues in way that has united the party's business class and its dominant Trump wing. The Republican approach, along with Biden's slumping numbers in the state, have made the Virginia election a real race in the closing weeks of the campaign.

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  Obama assails ‘politics of meanness’ as he campaigns in Virginia governor race Former President Barack Obama exhorted Virginians to support Democrat Terry McAuliffe’s candidacy for governor, warning of the dire consequences for the state and the country if he were to lose. Obama presented the choice for Virginians as between McAuliffe, who he said would keep moving the state forward, and Republican candidate Glenn Youngkin, who he said has been “encouraging the lies and conspiracy theories that we’ve had to live through all this time,” referring to the ongoing attempt by former President Donald Trump to falsely claim that the 2020 election was illegitimate.

The Virginia governor ' s race will likely will come down to which message is stronger — change or Trump? On change, the GOP is gambling that past Covid-19 restrictions, closed schools and increased prices will have Virginia voters wanting a new direction, especially when its competition is McAuliffe, the state ’ s former governor and a longtime party insider. The danger for this change/outsider message is if schools remain open and the economy is humming by the fall.

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Despite the state's recent Democratic-leaning orientation, Quentin Kidd, director of the Wason Center for Civic Leadership at Christopher Newport University in Newport News, Va., told Insider that there still remains a strong GOP base of reliable supporters. "Republicans consistently turn out a million or a little over a million voters consistently, even when they've lost massively," he said.

With the dominant Democratic Party facing an energized GOP, what do the dynamics of the electorate reveal about Virginia's political identity?

A voter heads to cast his ballot during the US presidential primary in Henrico County, Va., on March 1, 2016. AP Photo/Steve Helber © AP Photo/Steve Helber A voter heads to cast his ballot during the US presidential primary in Henrico County, Va., on March 1, 2016. AP Photo/Steve Helber

The importance of the suburban vote can't be overstated

From the 1970s through the 1990s, Republican presidential victories in Virginia were powered by the state's fast-growing suburban areas in northern Virginia, the Richmond metropolitan area, and Hampton Roads, which form the core of the vote-rich "Golden Crescent." However, from the late 2000s through the last decade, many suburban localities, including populous Loudoun, Prince William, and Henrico counties, began to support Democrats on the presidential level. This shift, which was already ongoing as the GOP became more ideologically conservative, was exacerbated by Trump's deep unpopularity in these suburbs, which are filled with college-educated moderates and independent voters who have become more receptive to Democratic messaging. Minority voters, notably Black, Latino, and Asian residents, are also increasingly becoming a part of the suburban electoral calculus.

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Democratic strategist, James Carville, discusses what Democrats can do to provide relief for Americans right now amid gridlock in Washington, and breaks down the political implications of the upcoming Virginia gubernatorial election. The Virginia governor ' s race is shaping up as a test of the state ' s Democratic strength and Biden .

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In northern Virginia, where McAuliffe and Youngkin both reside, Democrats have had striking success in recent election cycles. In 2019, northern Virginia boasted a population of 2.8 million residents and the region's votes made up 32% of the total statewide count in last year's presidential election, according to The Washington Post. The party handily carried the region by 32% in the 2017 gubernatorial election won by Northam, who is term-limited and ineligible to run for reelection. By running for a second, nonconsecutive term in office, McAuliffe is hoping to pull off a rare feat in Virginia - the last governor elected to two terms was Mills Godwin, who served in office from 1966 to 1970 as a Democrat and from 1974 to 1978 as a Republican.

A recent poll released by the Wason Center on Oct. 8 showed McAuliffe ahead of Youngkin 49%-45% with likely voters - the survey had a margin of error of 4.2%. In the same poll, Youngkin led among independents by a 50%-41% margin.

J. Miles Coleman, the associate editor of Sabato's Crystal Ball at the University of Virginia Center for Politics, which currently classifies the race as "leans Democratic," told Insider that Youngkin has a compelling personal story as a native Virginian who earned a basketball scholarship to play at Rice University and went on to earn an MBA at Harvard before eventually amassing a fortune of over $300 million at the helm of the Carlyle Group. "The Republicans have a fairly attractive candidate in Youngkin," he said. "He's not hated as much Trump is here, that's for sure. He kind of has an uplifting life story, and I think he's probably better positioned to appeal to some of those suburban voters who used to be Republicans but now vote for Democrats. He has tried to touch on some themes of law and order with a softer edge than Ed Gillespie ... at this time four years ago we were talking about MS-13," a reference to the violent street gang.

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Virginia Republican gubernatorial nominee Glenn Youngkin speaks with members of the press alongside his wife Suzanne, left, after voting early in Fairfax, Va., on September 23, 2021. AP Photo/Patrick Semansky © AP Photo/Patrick Semansky Virginia Republican gubernatorial nominee Glenn Youngkin speaks with members of the press alongside his wife Suzanne, left, after voting early in Fairfax, Va., on September 23, 2021. AP Photo/Patrick Semansky

McAuliffe has been unable to cast Youngkin as unacceptable to swing voters


Video: Virginia governor's race tightens as candidates face off in feisty final debate (NBC News)

Republicans are bullish on their support among some of the very same independents who have backed Democrats like Northam and Biden, along with lawmakers like Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine. McAuliffe has consistently sought to tie Youngkin to Trump, as well as raise concerns about access to abortion in the wake of the implementation of a highly restrictive Texas law that effectively bans the procedure after the sixth week of pregnancy. The former governor has also chided Youngkin for opposing COVID-19 vaccine mandates in an appeal to independents who back such measures. Youngkin, who has been vaccinated, disagrees with the mandates and said last month that getting inoculated is a personal decision.

The former governor has also criticized Youngkin for invoking critical race theory, which examines how America's history of racism continues to reverberate through laws and policies that exist today; it is a discipline that is generally not taught in K-12 schools, but Youngkin has pledged "ban" it on his first day in office.

McAuliffe raised 5 kids in Virginia but sent them to private schools

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McAuliffe, who is known for being a disciplined campaigner, has had a tough time linking Youngkin to the former president in the minds of many swing voters. Kidd, the Wason director, told Insider that even if Youngkin comes up short in his campaign, he could provide a roadmap for the Virginia GOP as they seek an escape from the political wilderness. "Glenn Youngkin may not win, but Republicans may have found a way to thread the needle between Trumpism and economic conservatism, which they have struggled to do," he said. "Youngkin seems to be walking a tightrope pretty effectively in some ways. He embraces Trump just enough, but not too much, and he distances himself from Trump just enough, but not too much."

Former state Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli addresses a rally sponsored by Catholic Vote and Fight for Schools in Leesburg, Va., on October 2, 2021. AP Photo/Cliff Owen © AP Photo/Cliff Owen Former state Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli addresses a rally sponsored by Catholic Vote and Fight for Schools in Leesburg, Va., on October 2, 2021. AP Photo/Cliff Owen

The conservative vote in the state remains influential

Despite Democrats currently holding all major statewide offices in Virginia, the GOP still holds 45 out of 100 seats in the House of Delegates and 19 out of 40 seats in the Senate. This year, every House seat is up for grabs, with Democrats angling to retain the majority that they clawed back in 2019. In addition to partisan gerrymandering, a major reason why Democrats struggled to regain control of many suburban-based House districts in the last decade prior to Trump's election was low turnout.

In 2009, the last year that Democrats lost a gubernatorial election in Virginia, Republicans were eager to elect former state Attorney General Bob McDonnell and he won in a 59%-41% landslide over state Sen. R. Creigh Deeds. Overall turnout that year was 40.4%, according to the Virginia Department of Elections. In 2013, when McAuliffe was elected governor, turnout hit 43%, which provided the lift he needed to defeat then-GOP state Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli by a 48%-45% margin. In 2017, Northam beat Gillespie by a 54%-45% spread, with a 47.6% turnout rate fueled by Democratic dissatisfaction with the Trump administration.

Glenn Youngkin makes final pitch to be Virginia's new governor

  Glenn Youngkin makes final pitch to be Virginia's new governor Yougkin promised Virginians in Loudoun County that he would ban critical race theory teachings in schools and that parents would have power over their children's educations.Youngkin, who holds less than a one percent lead over Democrat Terry McAuliffe, took the stage Monday night in the battleground county, which has been the state's epicenter of anger regarding school curricula and policies - in particular, the teaching of critical race theory and rules regarding transgender students.

Kidd told Insider that inconsistent Democratic turnout has been a lingering issue for the party. "Democrats flex all over the place with their numbers," he said. "They either turn out 1.4 or 1.5 million voters, or they turn out 800,000. Democratic losses since Obama's election in 2008 have been because they don't show up, and close wins have happened because they don't show up. In 2014, Mark Warner pulled it out [US Senate race] by the skin of his teeth, and it's because Democrats were sort of chagrined about the state of everything going on in the country."

While Republicans have faltered in northern Virginia in recent cycles, they still have a solid base of support in many exurban communities in the state, especially in the Richmond area and Hampton Roads, and they continue to dominate in the rural countryside, which includes Southwest Virginia.

Virginia Democratic gubernatorial candidate and former Gov. Terry McAuliffe listens as President Joe Biden speaks during a campaign event for McAuliffe at Lubber Run Park in Arlington, Va., on July 23, 2021. AP Photo/Andrew Harnik © AP Photo/Andrew Harnik Virginia Democratic gubernatorial candidate and former Gov. Terry McAuliffe listens as President Joe Biden speaks during a campaign event for McAuliffe at Lubber Run Park in Arlington, Va., on July 23, 2021. AP Photo/Andrew Harnik

The election is inextricably linked to Washington, DC

Last fall, Biden captured Virginia and its 13 electoral votes, winning the state by 10 points (54%-44%) in a year where Democrats were especially mobilized against Trump. However, months after the president took office, unexpected turbulence with the administration's handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, along with the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan and a stalled domestic agenda in Congress have removed much of the luster from his numbers.

In the Washington Post-Schar poll, Biden's approval rating in Virginia sat at 46%, with 51% disapproving. During a virtual meeting with supporters last week, CNN reported that McAuliffe mentioned Biden's sagging approval figure in the state. "We are facing a lot of headwinds from Washington, as you know," he said on the call. "The President is unpopular today unfortunately here in Virginia, so we have got to plow through." While the former governor brushed off the comments, the legislative inaction prompted him to state that the $3.5 trillion price tag for the Democratic-led infrastructure bill was "too high."

During a Tuesday interview with The Associated Press, McAuliffe called on Democratic lawmakers in Washington, DC, to "do your job" and do "whatever it takes" to pass substantive legislation. "They got to get their work done," he told the news agency. "People are counting on them."

In a state filled with federal workers and military veterans, residents are very much attuned to what emanates from the nation's capital, and McAuliffe clearly wants to see results, Coleman told Insider. "From his perspective, he just wants something passed," he said. "He wants to at least have the perception that Biden is able to pass his priorities. I think you'll see some Democrats across the country kind of trim their sails like him and say, 'We just want something that we can show the voters and say that this was what we've done.'"

Read the original article on Business Insider

Win or lose, Democrats have a tough road ahead after Virginia's governor’s race .
A close win for either Democrat Terry McAuliffe or Republican Glenn Youngkin could signal a rough road ahead for Democrats heading into next year's midterms.But the tight election is expected to yield important clues beyond Virginia about the nation's political landscape going into the 2022 midterms and beyond. Polls close at 7 p.m. ET.

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