Will political history repeat itself in Virginia?

In 1993, Republican George Allen won the Virginia gubernatorial race and replaced a term-limited Democratic governor. The next year, the GOP romped to victory in the midterm congressional elections.

In 2009, Republican Bob McConnell won the Virginia gubernatorial race and replaced a term-limited Democratic governor (Tim Kaine). The next year, the GOP “shellacked” the Democrats in the midterms.

Both the 1994 and 2010 elections rebuked a first-term Democratic president. The outcomes in Virginia in 1993 and 2009 foreshadowed these results.

Can the GOP candidate for governor of Virginia win this year? This seems like a longshot. The Commonwealth has changed considerably since 2009. It is now a Blue state.

Nonetheless, this Washington Post article suggests that Glenn Youngkin, the Republican nominee, has a decent shot at winning. The Post’s Robert McCartney thinks the political climate in Virginia today is similar to 2009 in that (1) now, as then, there seems to be a backlash against the Democratic president and (2) now, as then, Republicans are exceptionally determined to win.

It also helps that Youngkin is, in McCartney’s words, “an effective retail campaigner who is comfortable on stage.” Also, he’s quite rich. The personal fortune of the former CEO of the Carlyle Group investment firm is estimated at $254 million.

McCartney quotes a Democratic operative as saying, “it will be a very competitive race.” But the polls show Youngkin’s likely opponent, former governor Terry McAuliffe, with a large lead.

McAuliffe is a likeable scoundrel, in my view (and, of course, a leftist), but Virginia voters see him as mostly likeable. He was popular when he left office (due to term limits).

The Democrats are lucky that McAuliffe is still ambitious enough to be running again. But the other side of the coin is that if he loses, there will be all the more reason for Democrats to panic.

Meanwhile, the mainstream media is doing its best to undermine Youngkin by repeatedly asking him if he believes Joe Biden was elected legitimately, and then picking at the candidate’s answers. The Post says that Youngkin has changed his tune — unwilling to affirm Biden’s legitimacy before he was nominated, but willing to concede it now.

The Post wants Youngkin to alienate either die-hard Trump supporters by conceding Biden’s “legitimacy” or some segment of mainstream voters by disputing it. I don’t think mainstream voters care much about how Youngkin answers the question. The Post may be obsessed with Trump’s attack on the 2020 election, but mainstream voters have moved on.

Die-hard Trump supporters apparently haven’t. That’s okay with me. But if they decline to back Youngkin for not fully buying Trump’s claim that he won the 2020 race, they deserve four more years of Terry McAuliffe.

As noted earlier, though, Virginia Republicans are very hungry for victory this year. In the end, therefore, I don’t think Youngkin stands to lose many votes for refusing to “litigate” the 2020 election. And Trump, for his part, seems to be fine with Youngkin.

McCartney concludes his article with this warning (or upbeat note, depending on one’s perspective):

Youngkin can appeal to independent voters by arguing that the pendulum has swung too far to the left in both Richmond and Washington. Democrats will err if they take this race for granted.

Responses