If Terry McAuliffe wins, Democrats will take the victory as a confirmation that a state that has evolved blue over the past decade is still behind President Biden’s agenda and against Republicans, even though former President Trump is not on the ballot.
The story is not on the Democrats’ side: Since the 1970s, the winner of Virginia’s gubernatorial election has almost always come from the party in opposition to the White House. The only exception was in 2013, when McAuliffe won his first term as governor a year after then-President Barack Obama won re-election.
But even if McAuliffe wins a close race, the result could mean warning signs for Democrats in Washington, given Biden’s 10-point victory there just last year and the fact that the party in power often loses seats in subsequent mid-term terms.
Democrats had hoped McAuliffe would be able to run on a successfully adopted infrastructure package from the Biden administration, but constant delays on Capitol Hill and Democratic battles made the prospect of an agreement before Nov. 2 unlikely, something McAuliffe has used to to paralyze Congress.
“I say, do your job,” he said earlier last month. “You were elected to Congress. We in the states are desperate for this infrastructure money … We need help out here in the states, and people chose you to do your job.”
And while he has publicly argued that the bill is more important to the people of Virginia than to his political fortunes, his aides and advisers have privately worried that dysfunction in Washington could contaminate their race, especially in the vocal Northern Virginia suburbs.
For Glenn Youngkin, a victory would resonate far beyond Virginia – where a Republican has not won across the country in 12 years – and give the GOP a boost on its way into 2022. And while every campaign is different, and Youngkin who came in in the race as pretty much a blank slate with unlimited money, is a unique figure, a possible victory would validate his strategy of paying tribute to Trump at times while keeping him at an arm’s length.
“Whether he wins or not … it seems Youngkin is showing Republicans that they do not need to marry Trump,” said Doug Heye, a Republican adviser who previously served as the top spokesman for the Republican. national committee. . “Of course they do not want to cross him and alienate his base. But especially with Biden’s low numbers and McAulife’s vulnerabilities to things like education, Republicans can play in the Democrats’ field. That’s the first step in putting Trump in the rearview mirror.”
While there is some doubt among Republicans that the strategy could work in federal races, Heye says that because “all politics is national now,” issues that were once hyperlocal will “be talked about up and down the ballot.”
The 2021 races are also the first time that voters have the opportunity to cast their vote early without an excuse for having to do so after the democratically-led state changed the election laws. According to the Virginia Department of Elections, more than 734,000 Virginians have already voted.
Conversations with McAuliffe and Youngkin supporters have shown a similarity in how they each approach the race: Both are concerned that victories from their opponents would make Virginia a very different place. Democrats have repeatedly told CNN that a Youngkin victory would make Virginia a Republican-dominated state like Georgia, Texas or Florida, while Republicans have openly worried that a McAuliffe victory would make the Commonwealth California.
If McAuliffe wins, “we’ll go down the road we’re already going down with Biden,” said Wanda Schweiger, a 61-year-old Youngkin supporter. “And it’s a sinking ship.”
Stacey Abrams, a former Georgia gubernatorial candidate and a suffrage activist, made the case directly to voters over the weekend.
“If you want to find out what can happen to you if you do not come out and vote, take a newspaper that talks about Georgia. If you want to know what will happen in nine days if we do not come out and vote and look at what’s happening in Texas, “she said. “If you want to know what’s going on with Virginia if we do not vote, if you do not show up on November 2, remember what you wanted in November 2016.”