|There are a few basic rules when running for public office. One of them is: “If you don’t define yourself, your opponent will do it for you.”|
The corollary is: “If you don’t define your opponent, he or she will do it for you.”
The gubernatorial election in Virginia this past Tuesday was the proof of the rule.
There is no way to minimize the embarrassment that the Republican candidate Glenn Youngkin visited upon Terry McAuliffe and the national Democratic establishment.
If you have been away and missed it, novice candidate Youngkin beat former Governor McAuliffe by 50.9% – 48.4% or 80,722 votes.
I thought McAuliffe would win in a walk, again proving I am the worst predictor in the history of American politics. If I had been writing this column in 1789, I might have predicted George Washington would lose and he ran unopposed.
Getting back to what happened on Tuesday, the McAuliffe campaign allowed Youngkin to define – and re-define – himself at will.
According to the NY Times:
“After winning the G.O.P. nomination at a party convention in May, Mr. Trump endorsed him and Mr. Youngkin told a conservative radio host that he was honored.
‘President Trump represents so much of why I’m running,’ Mr. Youngkin said at the time.”
On last day of the campaign, after being panicked by the notion that Donald Trump might actually show up in Virginia, the Youngkin campaign apparently convinced the Trump people that a “tele-rally” would be the right way to go and – oh, by the way – the candidate would be unable to attend said rally because he would be wooing absentee voters on Guam.
Youngkin first defined himself as at Trump Republican and then, if not a Rockefeller Republican, then as a Romney Republican.
Youngkin also seized on an unforced error by McAuliffe on education when McAuliffe said in a debate “I don’t think parents should be telling schools what they should teach.”
Youngkin’s ads defined McAuliffe as being in favor teaching Critical Race Theory, which, in turn boosted Critical Race Theory – which is not taught in any Virginia public schools – to a major issue in the campaign.
I live in Alexandria, Virginia, the darkest of the blue areas of Northern Virginia. Midnight blue is to our right.
I mention this because we – and our neighbors in what is known as NoVa – Northern Virginia – are in the D.C. media market. That means we have been treated to second-by-second coverage of the inability of the House or the Senate – – both controlled, however thin the margins by Democrats – to get either of the President’s two big signature bills to the floor.
Terry McAuliffe was defined by the failure of President Joe Biden, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer to get the Build Back Better bill (BBBb) or the Reconciliation bill to the President’s desk.
For most of this year, Congressional Democrats have not been debating policy with Congressional Republicans, but with themselves.
Congressional Republicans, however odious their fealty to Trump, have allowed their opponents across the aisle to define themselves as incapable of governing.
That has led to a sense of exhaustion among Dem voters and allowed Virginia Republicans to (rightly, as it turned out) claim the mantle of enthusiasm.
As Amy Walter, Publisher & Editor-in-Chief of the highly respected Cook Political Report Tweeted:
‘Youngkin got 84% of Trump’s 2020 vote, McAuliffe just 65% of Biden’s. In other words, Trump voters turned out at almost presidential level, McAuliffe’s at a little better than average.” </blockquote>
Over in New Jersey, the Incumbent Governor, Phil Murphy won re-election by a margin of 50.6% – 48.7% or 47,568 votes. Not much different than the Virginia margin, but Murphy was supposed to win easily – even more easily than McAuliffe.
Looking for evidence that both Murphy and McAuliffe were swimming upstream?
In Virginia Republicans won the other two statewide races – Lt. Governor and Attorney General and have likely flipped the House of Delegates from D to R.
In NJ, the Democratic Leader of the State Senate lost to a guy who spent just $156 on his whole campaign.
We’ll have to wait until January 1, 2022 to see if Governor Younkin defines himself as a Greg Abbot (Tx)/Ron DeSantis (Fl) Governor or as a Charlie Baker (Ma)/Larry Hogan (Md) Governor.
See you next week.