Suburban voters responded to GOP’s culture war speech in Virginia governor’s race and showed all politics is now national

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Athena M. King, Old Dominion University

(THE CONVERSATION) With less than a year to go until the 2022 midterm election, political newcomer Glenn Youngkin’s resounding victory in Virginia’s race for governor demonstrated effective GOP strategy that appeals to crucial suburban voters alienated by Donald Trump while maintaining the support of the former president staunch supporters.

Youngkin’s campaign and the ensuing victory over former Virginia Democratic Governor Terry McAuliffe put Virginia in the national spotlight. The election was a referendum not only on Trump’s influence in the GOP, but also on the failure of the Biden administration to deliver on the presidential campaign promises so far.

In the previous Virginia election, local politics was just that – local. But over the past decade, Virginia has gone from a reliable presidential red state to a reliable blue state. Starting with the election of Barack Obama in 2008, Virginia voted Democratic in the presidential election, notably for Hillary Clinton in her unsuccessful candidacy in 2016 and Joe Biden in 2020. Prior to the 2008 election, Virginians voted Republican in presidential elections of the previous 40. years.

The recent Blue Wave has placed Virginia at the heart of national politics – and made it a GOP target. Using the National Culture Wars, and in particular the GOP’s outrage over how race issues are taught in public schools, Youngkin has targeted voters in suburban Virginia and cut enough to become governor.

In addition to winning the governor’s race, the Virginia GOP saw Winsome Sears become the first black woman to become a lieutenant governor. And Republican Jason Miyares has taken over the state attorney general’s office. The Republicans also won enough seats in the House of Delegates to tie the Democrats, although a few races are still being decided. The Virginia Senate remains under Democratic control.

The blue wave in Virginia is now an open question.

Suburban GOP gains

Although Biden overwhelmingly won the Suburbs in 2020, the Youngkin campaign won a major game this year by focusing, in part, on the potential that Critical Race Theory could be taught at the K-12 level. It doesn’t, but that hasn’t stopped the spread of misinformation.

Usually reserved for graduate schools, Critical Race Theory is an area of ​​intellectual research that demonstrates the legal codification of racism in America. Instead of responding to Youngkin with the truth, McAuliffe further alienated suburban voters by saying in a debate with Youngkin that “parents shouldn’t tell schools what to teach.”

This was a major mistake and became the subject of incessant Youngkin campaign commercials in the days leading up to the November 2 election. In Fairfax County – a suburban Democratic stronghold near Washington, DC, comprising nearly 13.5% of the state’s overall vote – Youngkin’s campaign against critical race theory improved GOP’s results from 2.6 percentage points from the 2020 presidential election.

Youngkin’s strategy was also aided by McAuliffe’s inane efforts to portray the millionaire political newcomer as a sidekick of Trump.

The Trump Factor

Polls have shown the race to be a statistical stalemate leading to election day. These poll numbers remained stable on election night.

In Republican-majority counties in Virginia, for example, such as Bedford, Frederick, Roanoke and Hanover, Trump’s margin of victory in 2020 was between 37% and 60%. Youngkin kept those numbers under 1 percentage point.

Youngkin was able to maintain Trump’s base without publicly embracing Trump. GOP hopefuls who fear alienating moderate suburban Republicans are now able to follow Youngkin’s lead in downplaying their association with Trump while secretly profiting from the enthusiasm he is generating among his base.

How is Virginie going?

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines the “flagger” as “the one who takes the lead or the initiative” or “an indicator of trends”. This is the role Virginia could now play on the national political scene.

While the incumbent president’s party typically loses congressional seats midway through, emboldened Republicans, bolstered by the results in Virginia, now expect both houses to not only regain control of the GOP, but to present also to Biden the added challenge of a divided government. Both could culminate in a 2024 presidential election campaign that could very well see Trump topped the list as a Republican candidate once again.

Such enthusiasm – and the public’s alienation from Trump – could mean the difference between winning and losing in an upcoming election across the country. It could also create a new version of an old political norm: all policies are now national.

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article here: – national-171175.

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