Election Day is over in Virginia. What do the results mean?

Virginia Politics

PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — Candidates for elected office in Virginia have been living with the rigors of a highly competitive statewide campaign for over a year — every day, every week, every month. 

You can’t get to the end and not go back and relive the good, the bad, and the ugly. 

Republican Glenn Youngkin won the gubernatorial race in great part to voter enthusiasm by a wide margin — the enthusiasm was palpable at times.

“The Republican side was more energized, and turning out for this election, but the energy was not the same on the Democrats’ side,” NSU Political Analyst Dr. Eric Claville said.

Youngkin was hitting issues while Democrat Terry McAuliffe was trying to sink Youngkin by associating him with Donald Trump — and election results show it didn’t work.  

“Where Youngkin did really well, he picked up 17% of the voters who said they disapproved of Donald Trump. Terry McAuliffe only picked up 5% of those who said they supported Donald Trump,” ODU Political Analyst Ben Melusky said.  

“It did not work for McAuliffe because Trump stayed out of state. He was not visible, he was not in the news cycle, he was out of sight out of mind,” Claville added.

What also led to McAuliffe’s downfall, these nine words uttered during a debate: “I don’t want parents telling schools what to teach.” 

Claville considered that a turning point.

“We do know according to the exit polls that education was the number one issue going to the polls and they were voting for Youngkin,” he said.  

McAuliffe failed to correct the gaffe when it happened, and was forced to do damage control with his own commercial explaining what he meant. However, in politics, if you are explaining then you may be losing.

“All politics is local. It is about connecting with your locality, your voters, and your district, and ensuring you are speaking their language,” Claville said.

Youngkin was speaking the language, the issues and the vision. 

McAuliffe also tried to nationalize the campaign by talking Trump, but President Joe Biden’s approvals have plummeted, and political environment is important in an election.

“The issues in Washington, failed negotiations, the deadlock, the disagreements played out in public instead of behind closed doors, and that definitely impacted enthusiasm with Democrats,” Claville said.  

The campaign also was successful at showing Republicans the way. 

“It shows Republicans are back, and they have a new strategy and a new type candidate,” Claville said.  

Claville says Democrats need to go back to basics.

“They need to go back to their bread and butter, and that’s grassroots organizing, grassroots issues, grassroots voter registration, and getting voters to the polls for every election because every election is important,” he said.

Republicans through Youngkin figured out how to run a campaign while keeping Donald Trump at arm’s length. 

“Youngkin focused on issues that really mattered to the electorate. He focused on the economy, he focused on education, and crime in some instances, and these are issues that are ubiquitous across the country,” Melusky added.

It should be noted that with the Republican sweep, it is possible Republicans take control of the House of Delegates. That brings us back to a McAuliffe commercial against Youngkin, and a moment caught on tape when asked if he would support defunding Planned Parenthood and a ban on abortion.

“In this campaign, I can’t. When I’m governor, and I have a majority in the House, we can start going on offense,“ Youngkin said.  

If numbers hold, Youngkin could very well have a majority in the House of Delegates, so the meaning of “going on offense” takes on new significance.  What does that mean? 

“He still has a divided legislature [Democrats narrowly control the state Senate] so how much of an offense can you go off of if the Democrats remain unified and they can block a lot of legislation,” Melusky added.

Melusky says what we also learned from this campaign is the issue of education setting itself up to be a new culture war.

“Education is setting itself up to be a new culture war. We are pitting parents against government. We think about the role of government and who should be administering this and who should be directing the course of something as important as your child’s  education,” he said.  

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