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Youngkin v McAuliffe: Who has won the Virginia election?

While voting has not been finalized, it only seems a matter of time before the Democrat grip on Virginia slips - how did this happen?

Virginians went to the polls Tuesday to vote in the gubernatorial race that pits Youngkin against Democratic gubernatorial candidate, former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe.
Anna MoneymakerAFP

Republican Glenn Youngkin looks set to topple the Democrat hold on Virginia in a closely fought battle with Terry McAuliffe. Unthinkable a year ago, the result, when announced officially, should be a wake-up call for Democrats as they try to hold on to all the levers of power come midterm elections next year.

A defeat would represent the first Democrat defeat in the state since 2009. Considering Biden won the state in the national election just a year ago, how has such a defeat manifested?

Problems in Congress

Virginia Sen. Mark Warner on Tuesday evening suggested that the race in his home commonwealth has been close because “unfortunately, all these races have become so nationalized.” And what voters are seeing on the national level is not good for Democrats.

Congress is in a months-long limbo trying to pass two big parts of Biden's agenda: the infrastructure bill and the reconciliation bill. Totaling trillions of dollars, the bills are really the only significant piece of Democrat legislation this year, except the pandemic bill back in March. Despite being able to point back to this, the pandemic support was over six months ago, with nothing of substance being passed since then.

The problem arisen is the razor-thin majority Democrats have in the Senate. A bare 50-50 means just one dissenting voice has huge ramifications for these bills. Neighboring West Virginia has one of the most dogged senators amongst its ranks, Joe Manchin. He has been able to drive down the amount of spending previously wanted, removing aspects such as climate change policies and expanded child care, even potentially the expansion of the Child Tax Credit.

This bickering will not have gone unnoticed by voters, who are slowly seeing their promised support being sapped away like a dry sponge in water. Americans are also having to deal with rising inflation and a slower than expected post-covid-19 recovery.

All this has led to the lowest personal rating of President Biden so far, a mere 43 percent. If an election were to be held today, the polling continues, Trump would gain one percentage point more than Biden. If the Dems are going to reverse their fortunes, they have to get transformative legislation through Congress before the midterm elections, or the prospect of a President with no branches of government to support is a very real possibility.

An uninspiring candidate and campaign

Democrat candidate Terry McAuliffe has already been Governor of Virginia, relinquishing the post in 2018. He had pitched himself as a centrist candidate, in line with President Biden and much of the Democrat hierarchy.

Despite support from Democrat big hitters like Barack Obama, the campaign never really got going, allowing Youngkin to slide in with his moderate appeal and penetrating rhetoric about so-called 'critical race theory', which has become a new Republican bogeyman. McAuliffe has had no argument against it. One of McAuliffe's strategies was to paint Youngkin as a close ally of former President Trump, but his failed to stick.

Old rhetoric like that does not inspire voters, and it simply isn't enough for Democrats to say "vote for us because we are not Trump." In such unprecedented times with such hardship, old methods of campaigning are not enough.

Democrats will have a seriously rude awakening in the midterm elections in 2022 if they approach campaigns like in Virginia.


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