The Virginia and New Jersey off-year elections results are in. Republicans scored major wins in Virginia. Not only did political newcomer Glenn Younkin win the Governor's race, but Republicans also won all the other statewide races as well. The GOP also took control of the House of Delegates, the lower chamber in the Virginia legislature. In New Jersey, in what would have been a shocking upset, the Republicans just missed winning the Governor's office but did pick up several seats in the New Jersey legislature.
|Gov.-Elect Glenn Youngkin (R-VA)|
Returning to Virginia, former Governor Terry McAuliffe is being blamed for having run a bad campaign. Certainly, the campaign could have been better and the school board comment was a huge gaffe (even if Republicans were distorting a bit what he actually said). But here's the thing. McAuliffe ran only slightly behind the other statewide Virginia Democratic candidates who also lost. (Analysis is complicated somewhat because the Governor's race also featured a Libertarian candidate who received .7% of the vote.) McAuliffe ran near the Democratic baseline for Virginia in 2021. The trouble is that the Democratic baseline in Virginia was awful across the board, regardless of the campaign.
But it just wasn't just Virginia. The results in New Jersey (+16 for Joe Biden in 2020), where the popular incumbent Democratic governor nearly lost his re-election bid, further demonstrates that the problem wasn't individual campaigns, but the Democratic brand. (The NJ Governor's race was, wrongly, assumed to be non-competitive so virtually no quality polling was done.)
People are mad at the Democrats and they took it out on them by voting for Republicans in 2021 or staying home. And the anger is not just tied to Biden, but is across the board. The chief blame belongs to the House Progressives, aka the "Suicide Squad" who decided to deny the President of their party a huge win on the popular, bipartisan infrastructure bill by insisting that bill be tied to the much less popular social spending measure. The Suicide Squad could have just taken the infrastructure bill win and then worked for a compromise on the social spending measure that could get moderate D's on board. But members of the SS were worried they wouldn't get as much "stuff" as they would if they held the infrastructure bill hostage. The attempt to blackmail more moderate Democrats to vote for something they had cold feet on by tying it to something that is popular in their districts was always an absurd, counterproductive strategy. It tanked President Biden's ratings and Democratic fortunes in the 2021 off-year elections.
If the Dems are going to salvage 2022 and win the White House in 2024, Biden needs to kick the progressives in the rear and move strongly to the middle. Can you imagine how popular Biden would be if he governed as a pragmatic, centrist Democrat who approached issues in a thoughtful, fiscally responsible manner, like say Joe Manchin?