RICHMOND (VA) -- Glenn Youngkin explains that part of the reason he ran for governor in Virginia was a belief that the state's battered Republican Party could do so much more.
This is a polite way of putting it. Republicans have been in a downward spiral since Virginia was blue for Barack Obama's 2008 election. This trend accelerated under President Donald Trump's presidency. Since 2009, the GOP has not won a state race in Virginia. This led to its legislative majority slipping away.
This long losing streak and the high hopes surrounding Youngkin have made the race against Democrat Terry McAuliffe a high stakes moment for GOP. It is seen by some as the last chance for the GOP to gain ground in an increasingly liberal and diverse state before it loses a generation and the Southern battleground falls into the hands of Democrats.
Patrick McSweeney, who was formerly the chair of the Republican Party of Virginia, stated that "This year a Republican's got the chance to win that race."
The problems that have decimated Republicans in Virginia are well-known far beyond Virginia. Either the party's hardline base has supported candidates that aren't appealing to the suburbs, or the mainstream candidates have given in to far-right views. It has also struggled with non-white voters to support the party.
However, this year the party nominated an racially and geographically statewide party ticket. Republicans from all parties appear to have rallied around Youngkin. Youngkin is a political newcomer, who has proven to be a strong campaigner, with appeal far beyond the far-right. Youngkin may also be benefiting from the fact that voters are turning against a Democrat-controlled Washington. According to polls, the race, which is likely to be the most expensive ever for a governor's seat in the state, is a dead heat.
John Watkins was a former Republican state senator who served 34 years in the General Assembly. He said that Youngkin is a marked improvement on the "far-right" candidates nominated by the party in recent years.
Watkins stated that Youngkin is more likely to be competitive than one of the candidates. Corey Stewart lost a 2018 U.S. Senate election against Tim Kaine by 16 percent. Stewart, who was once the state chair for Trump's presidential campaign ran as an immigration hard-liner. He also advocated Confederate imagery and made sharp personal attacks on Kaine, which led to him being expelled by other GOP congressional candidates.
After campaigning as a conservative Christian outsider, Youngkin wonhis party’s nomination in May. He made "election integrity” a key issue and was able to appeal to Trump voters that believed his lie about the 2020 election being stolen. The majority of his attention was then directed to other issues, promising tax cuts and supporting law enforcement. seizing upon conservatives frustrations over schools' pandemic policies, race, and diversity education.
His advertising portrays him as a friendly, suburban dad. He's kept his distance to Trump, who has supported him.
McAuliffe was in office from 2014-2018 and tried to argue that Youngkin is an extremist, who would reverse the Democrats' legislative achievements.
McAuliffe stated that Glenn Youngkin's campaign has been one of hatred, division, and fear since the day he entered this race." He spoke at a rally on Friday.
Two years after assuming full control of the state government, Democrats have made transformative changes in public policy: reforming the criminal justice and abortion restrictions, increasing voting access, legalizing cannabis, ending the death penalty, and expanding voter access.
This year's ballot also includes races for attorney general, lieutenant governor and all 100 House of Delegates seats, where Democrats hold a 55-45 majority. This year, the Democrat-controlled Senate has not been elected.
Swecker claimed that Democrats are more aligned to Virginia's electorate which has become more suburbanized, educated, and more diverse. She said that Republicans have shifted too far to right, opposing voting rights, abortion rights, and making Virginia "welcoming" and "open to all".
She said, "You're playing around in corners, and that isn't where the people of Virginia live."
Republicans face demographic challenges, even if Youngkin is a perfect candidate. The party's rural Southern and Western strongholds are losing population. While the state is becoming more diverse in racial terms, Virginia's GOP remains overwhelmingly white. According to AP VoteCast (a survey of the electorate), 87% of Trump voters in Virginia in 2020 were white.
Youngkin spoke out about the party's recent loss record to The Associated Press, when he was asked why he became a politician after leaving a successful career in private equity.
He stated that he was unhappy with the direction Virginia was going under one-party control, and saw this year's election as an opportunity for Republicans to "a real challenge."
"You are familiar with the statistics. He said that he meant, "We haven't won any statewide elections since Bob McDonnell," in reference to the 2009 governor’s race.
The party headquarters is a good example of how Republicans and Democrats have performed in Virginia over the past few years.
The office of the Democrats is located in the stylish Richmond office building, near to Richmond's state Capitol.
Meanwhile, the Republicans have opened a small business about a mile from downtown. It is sandwiched between an deli and hair salon.
Shaun Kenney, an ex-executive director of the party, said that "the last four years have proven to be particularly demoralizing."
Ronna McDaniel, Chair of the Republican National Committee, disputed any suggestion that the state party was not in good shape. McDaniel stated that the party has been investing in the country, with 100 employees on the ground and 13 new offices for the election. She acknowledged, however, that Tuesday's victory would be a huge boost for state Republicans.
Paul Goldman, an ex-chair of the state Democratic Party, stated that the election will provide insight into how blue Virginia's electorate is. He said that McAuliffe will be able to defeat a "fresh" candidate who has "unlimited" funds. "Either Republicans have to change their game, or they will lose when the public is really against the Democrats."
McSweeney acknowledged that Youngkin's defeat on Tuesday would be a difficult road for his party.
"If Glenn doesn't win, it will be very difficult for him to win in the future." He said that people won't be as motivated to invest their time, energy, and resources in it.Updated Date: 01 November 2021, 14:07