Ghost haunts the Democratic Party – Glenn Youngkin’s prospect of victory in Virginia’s state race next week.
The former businessman and political upstart is pitted against Terry McAuliffe, the longtime Democrat who is seeking a return to the governor’s mansion after serving one term from 2014 to 2018.
Yongkin’s victory would be significant. Not only will Democrats fear nationally, making the party’s agenda more difficult to get through to Congress; That might point to a viable path ahead for the Republican Party in swing regions, one that preserves Trump’s base while reclaiming lost ground with independents and suburban residents.
If Yongkin manages to make it happen, his avoidance of Donald Trump will be a huge factor. In a state like Virginia, you can’t be anti-Trump and win the Republican nomination. But you can’t be pro-Trump, or very pro-Trump, and win a statewide election.
Yongkin walked the tightrope with some shrewd maneuvering — get Trump’s endorsement, but don’t talk about him or invite him to the country — and make a valiant effort to define himself in a personal capacity.
For a long time, he only ran resume ads, the kind of site that would make hard-line politicians roll their eyes – he worked as a teen in a restaurant; He played basketball until he got a scholarship. He ran a company that raised four children. Which, of course, does not resemble traditional politicians.
Yongkin was criticized for running a problem-free campaign, but the flurry of lively ads meant his answer to the question, “Are you pro or anti-Trump?” It could be, “I’m Glenn Yongkin.” And he wanted everyone to know that basically meant a nice dad.
What a red MAGA hat is for Trump, a cardigan – a relaxed, suburban look, let’s meet at Starbucks after a kids’ soccer game – is for Youngkin. In his appearance for McAuliffe, Barack Obama accused Yongkin than misrepresenting himself as “an ordinary man who plays hoops, washes dishes, wears fleece.”
President Joe Biden Take a sartorial shot too. He warned of multiple forms of extremism: “He can come in the wrath of a mob who pays to attack the Capitol. He can come with a smile and a fleece jacket.”
Yongkin has closely avoided the electoral poison caused by a retarded obsession with the 2020 election. He was cautious in 2020 during the Republican nomination battle, then acknowledged the legitimacy of Biden’s victory. When Steve Bannon, a former Trump adviser, presided over a bizarre pro-Yongkin event that featured the January 6 flag, Yongkin called it “weird and wrong.”
On the issues, he has fought hard in the paradigm democratic field of health care and especially education. Youngkin has hit education from the start, whether it’s school closures due to the coronavirus, the need to protect advanced learning, school safety, or the struggle over critical race theory.
McAuliffe’s statement in a debate that parents should not tell schools what to teach has pulled these threads together in a powerful way and allowed Yongkin to portray himself as the protector of parental privileges. If McAuliffe loses, his parents’ comment will be remembered as a “pitiful” moment. More importantly, Youngkin’s victory would show that educational battles that were often fought at the local level can have an impact on the state and possibly on the national level.
Education was looming large in the suburbs. Suburban areas around Washington, Richmond and Virginia Beach have swung hard against Democrats in recent years. Trump’s biggest electoral trade-off of winning working-class voters and pushing back people in the suburbs worked for him once nationwide, in 2016, but it has its limits.
Yongkin’s approach was to give suburban voters a “permission slip” to support him, by making himself more widely accepted through his autobiography and demeanor. Furthermore, he has associated himself with the suburban rebellion against school boards, most famously in Loudoun County, and has spoken of an economic agenda geared toward the cost of living.
It would have been easier for Yongkin to make his way into a statewide race where the right Republican candidates could beat the blue electorate. But if he wins, it will show that at least some of the terrain Democrats chose during the Trump years can be retaken, that the Republican Party does not need to baffle itself with Trump’s weaknesses and that the midterms next year look especially bleak. Democrats.
Yes, they should be afraid of wool.