Monday, November 1, 2021

Virginia Electing a Republican Governor Might Be the Wakeup Call Democrats Need

I am convinced that Republican Glenn Younkin is going to win the Virginia Governor's race tomorrow.  Although most polls show former Governor Terry McAuliffe with a point or two lead, I'm most persuaded by the Fox News poll released last week which showed Youngkin up by eight points.  Only two weeks earlier, the Fox News poll had McAuliffe up by five points.  A 13 point move in a poll over a two week period is hard to discount.

Glenn Youngkin
Youngkin has managed to straddle the fence during his campaign, throwing some reddish meat to Trumpers while distancing himself from the former President.  And President Trump, perhaps recognizing his own toxicity in Virginia has mostly stayed out of the race.  While McAuliffe has run a decent race, national trends seem likely to sink his candidacy.  President Biden's plunging popularity has dragged down McAuliffe's numbers while elevating Youngkin's.

If Youngkin wins tomorrow, he should send a thank you card to the House Progressive Caucus, otherwise known as the "Suicide Squad."  Biden's numbers are sinking because he is increasingly seen as an ineffectual leader who can't get things done.  But in fact, earlier this year Biden's team masterfully put together an infrastructure bill, which had earned bipartisan support in the Senate.  The House could have handed him a big win by passing it, then focusing on other priorities. But instead the Suicide Squad (sure hope that moniker sticks) decided that popular bill should be held hostage to try to garner more support for another less popular measure, wrongly dubbed as "human infrastructure."  That brilliant (note the sarcasm) maneuver managed to drive down Biden's popularity while gaining no additional support for the massive social spending bill.  Governor-elect Glenn Youngkin thanks you progressives!

The Suicide Squad is increasingly being compared to the Freedom Caucus.  Both groups of House members pursue unrealistic goals and threaten to blow their party up if they don't achieve them.  The difference though is the Suicide Squad has more members and has a greater influence in the House than the Freedom Caucus.

Biden ran as a moderate, courting the votes of working class whites who were increasingly voting Republican. While that strategy failed, what did work was his appeal to suburban Republican-leaning voters who despised Trump and who were willing to vote for a Democrat who was a reasonable moderate.  Once elected, Biden stopped trying to appeal to these Never Trumpers, instead looking to placate the left wing of his party which actually favored Bernie Sanders and/or Elizabeth Warren over his moderate approach to Democratic politics.

Losing Virginia just might be the wake-up call Biden and the Democrats need.  If they want to win re-election in 2024, and win at least one chamber in Congress in 2022 (the House looks almost impossible for the Democrats to win, but the Democrats should be favored to win the Senate), Biden needs to moderate his message and reach out to those suburban disaffected Republicans who put him over the top in 2020.  

And there is precedent for such an approach.  Bill Clinton in 1992 was elected along with a Democratic House and Senate.  Although Clinton ran as a southern moderate, he governed as a liberal, resulting in Republicans winning both chambers of Congress in the 1994 midterms, the first time that had happened in 40 years.  But the win also caused Clinton to turn sharply to his right.  As a result, Clinton won re-election by a sizable margin in 1996.

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