Monday, October 25, 2021

The Virginia Laboratory

Well, I guess I still think McAuliffe will pull it out, but it's a very close call. I would not at all be surprised at this point if Youngkin wins. He's run a good campaign, road-testing an approach that could possibly be used by other GOP candidates in the run-up to 2022.
Josh Kraushaar:
"As The Bulwark’s Amanda Carpenter put it: “Youngkin has worked carefully not to come off too Trumpy, definitely not anti-Trump, but just Trumpy enough to put the Republican coalition back together again.”...
It’s...striking to see a sea of red Youngkin campaign signs in some of the bluest precincts in northern Virginia, where it was rare to see any Trump campaign material for miles during the past two presidential elections. At a campaign event in Manassas last week, Youngkin called his campaign yard signs “permission passports” to show suburban voters that it was still socially acceptable for them to support a Republican. During his speech, Youngkin name-checked former President George W. Bush (referencing his line about “the soft bigotry of low expectations” on education), but didn’t mention Donald Trump’s name at all. It’s a signal that even anti-Trump swing suburban voters can tell the difference between Trump and Youngkin....
Polls show that Youngkin, focusing his campaign message on education, has closed McAuliffe’s early advantage. A new Monmouth poll released this week shows the two candidates tied at 46 percent apiece, compared to a 5-point McAuliffe lead in September. Despite the barrage of ads tying Youngkin to Trump, the Republican’s personal image is at a healthy level (41 percent view him favorably, 29 percent unfavorably), while McAuliffe’s image has taken a hit (39 percent favorable, 39 percent unfavorable)."
That bit about the Youngkin signs in non-Trumpy areas especially worries me. Anecdotal to be sure but....
James Hohmann brings the laboratory aspect of the Virginia race into sharp focus in a commentary today:
"The National Republican Senatorial Committee has been testing dozens of potential messages that might claw back suburban voters who drifted toward Democrats during Donald Trump’s presidency, and lines of attack related to education show as much potential for the midterms as inflation, immigration and crime....
Although Joe Biden carried the commonwealth by 10 points last year — and is scheduled to campaign Tuesday with Democratic nominee Terry McAuliffe — the latest poll, from Monmouth University, shows a tie. That survey found that schooling has surpassed covid to become the second-most-important issue, behind the economy. And after previously trailing, Youngkin has edged McAuliffe as being more trusted to handle education.
Democrats traditionally hold advantages on education, but parental anger at learning loss caused by school closures has shifted the landscape. Many moms and dads blame recalcitrant teachers unions, to whom the Democratic Party is beholden, for slow reopenings. Mask mandates in the classroom poll well but have added to tensions....
One reason Republican strategists are so high on the education messages is that they also play well with Latinos. The NRSC plan to win back the Senate involves retaining support from rural and non-college-educated Whites who moved toward the GOP under Trump, continuing to make inroads among Hispanics, and reversing the suburban slide among college-educated Whites. The three-pronged approach means Republicans do not need to recapture all the suburban voters who backed Mitt Romney in 2012 but shifted to Biden in 2020 in order to regain control of the Senate, which is currently divided 50-50."
This three-pronged approach makes excellent sense given recent political trends. It's the GOP's best bet. The McAuliffe-Youngkin election results should provide some early indication of the potential of this strategy. Keep your eye on the Virginia laboratory!

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