NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — One week from today Virginians will go to the polls, and the nation will be watching.
“Think of Virginia as being almost a focus group,” said Ben Melusky, associate professor of political science at Old Dominion University.
With 140 seats up for grabs in the General Assembly, it’s a large sample size for that focus group.
“Historically we’ve looked at Virginia as this bellwether state, or this crystal ball for the future elections,” Melusky said. “The state’s changed.”
Virginia voted for Democrats in the past four presidential elections, and then elected a Republican governor in 2021, so the Commonwealth could go either way.
Melusky pointed out that with an unpopular President Joe Biden, a popular governor is currently raising record amounts of money.
“(He’s) trying to flex his muscle and take over the Senate and have unified government under his last two years of his term,” he said.
If Gov. Glenn Youngkin can hold the slim margin Republicans have in the House of Delegates and flip four seats in the Senate, that would set the stage for him to implement a sharply conservative policy agenda.
“Abortion, for many voters, (is the) number one issue,” Melusky said. “Then you also throw in education, and the economy, and guns, right, and we’re going to see how these issues play out at the state level. Could they play out larger in 2024?”
It could also put Youngkin on the national stage, Melusky said.
“There’s been a lot of talk — could he potentially be this late insert into the presidential hopefuls race, but it’s really going to come down to what can he do in a state that has been trending blue in recent years.”
How Virginias vote will tell us not only who is voting, but also which messages are resonating. It will also guide both parties as they draft the blue prints we’ll see play out in 2024.