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Ten Take-Aways from 'Blood Bath' GOP Victories Last Night

AP Photo/Andrew Harnik

Well, it happened.  After witnessing the party get shut out of statewide races for the last dozen years, the 2021 Virginia GOP ticket swept all three major races on Tuesday, flipping a state that voted for Joe Biden by ten percentage points just one year ago.  Any way you slice it, this is an incredible feat.  In my predictions post yesterday, I offered the following analysis, which I believe has aged rather well, if I do say so myself: 

This race is a home game for McAuliffe. The fundamentals of the new Virginia electorate favor him and his party. On the other hand, all the other fundamentals of the race are falling Youngkin's way. The momentum. The national environment, including the president's unpopularity. Virginia's long history of (almost always) voting in the party opposed to the recently-inaugurated president. And an apparent enthusiasm gap between the two parties' respective bases...As for my prediction, nearly everything I've seen, heard, and read leads me to conclude that the moment is ripe for a Youngkin victory. I'd say there's a 50 percent chance that Youngkin wins by 1-3 points. I'd also say there's a 20 percent chance that he wins by a larger margin. And I would guess that there's a 30 percent chance that the deepening blueness of the state is too much to overcome, and McAuliffe survives the scare with a win.

Some take-aways, in no particular order: 

(1) In Virginia, the polls were roughly right.  They'd missed fairly badly across a number of races in the Old Dominion in recent cycles, as we've discussed, but not this time.  They were basically bang-on, give or take a percentage point.  Glenn Youngkin's campaign told me that they were pretty consistently ahead in their internal numbers over the final weeks by three points, and those internals were also vindicated.

(2) Youngkin ran up astounding margins in rural and conservative areas of the state (the intensity was real), and made significant gains, well, everywhere.  Feast your eyes on this:


Youngkin needed these types of shifts, and he earned them.  Turning a D+10 state into an R+3-ish win is no small task.  The way he did it was consolidating the Trump base, bringing non-Trump right-leaning voters back into the fold, and persuading a lot of moderates and independents to vote for him.  If the GOP can replicate this model, and nominate candidates capable of this balancing act, across the country, the party will be a force to be reckoned with:

(3) In this post, we quoted top elections analyst Dave Wasserman, who set some benchmarks for Youngkin:

Let's review the results, with the caveat that all of these numbers are subject to slight changes as everything shakes out.  Virginia Beach? Check (R+9). Chesterfield? Check (R+12). Chesapeake? Check (R+7).  All flipped.  In blue areas, Youngkin hit 35 percent in Fairfax, 41 percent in Prince William, and almost 45 percent in Loudoun, where Biden won by 25 points.  He hit and exceeded his marks in key places -- with coattails, hence the "blood bath" moniker (update: it looks like Republicans have now flipped another Assembly seat):


(4) Examining a few demographic notes from the CNN exit polls, Youngkin won three of four major age groups, with the lone exception of the youngest voters (18-29), which he only lost by seven points.  He carried independents by nine points. He won roughly one-third of Hispanics and Asian-Americans, while peeling off 13 percent of the Black vote.  The Republican won men by 12 points, making up for a six-point shortfall with women.  White women swung hard back into the R column.  The Fox News voter analysis mirrored some of these findings, but had some interesting departures, too.  For instance, the Fox data showed Youngkin winning Hispanics outright.  Some progressives are struggling to grapple with these losses and are going the tone deaf, racially-divisive "white-lash" route.  Calling people racist is partly how Democrats got themselves into this mess, and it's farcical and cartoonish to seethe in this particular manner about the victory of a ticket that features the first Black woman ever elected statewide in Virginia, alongside a Latino Attorney General:


(5) This race had massive, record turnout, blowing well past 3 million voters and leaving 2017's numbers in the dust, by hundreds of thousands of votes. And the Republicans swept, turning a piece of conventional wisdom (big turnout helps Democrats) on its head:

(6) Terry McAuliffe ran on Donald Trump, COVID mandates, and abortion.  He brought in a slew of Democratic superstars for enthusiasm help, then closed his campaign with Randi Weingarten, for crying out loud.  It didn't work.  Youngkin focused on schools (siding with parents, who've been battered on an array of education-related fronts, with CRT just being a sliver of the wider issue), the economy, and state-level concerns.   He picked his spots, and leaning into some of the culture war issues that voters cared about, fighting back against the Left. He won.  Both campaigns' strategies will be analyzed to death, and I think Republicans in purple areas across the country would be very well-served to study Youngkin and his entire approach very closely.

(7) That said, there is something much bigger happening here.  The country is very unhappy with the status quo, President Biden is unpopular, and there's a deeper discontent at play.  New Jersey stunned the country with an emerging a photo-finish gubernatorial race (advantage: Murphy, which has prompted a Wasserman race call), with some equally shocking down-ballot developments (significant and unexpected gains in the legislature).  Take a quick spin across the country:


And check out this thread on school board wins all over the country for conservative candidates.  Keep scrolling.  Are there common threads binding all of these (still tentative or incomplete) outcomes?  My combination of guesses: A seriously disillusioned country, a backlash against Democratic dominance, profound dissatisfaction on the economy (the number one issue), and perhaps more visceral frustration over COVID restrictions and mandates than many pollsters and politicians have detected.  Democrats have made themselves the party of restrictions and mandates. I can't help but wonder if a lot of fed up people have just had enough of it.  


(8) As for DC Democrats, I guarantee you there are some very nervous Virginia and New Jersey House members right now, along with any number of vulnerable Democrats from purple districts -- with 'vulnerability' as a sliding scale after what we've just witnessed in states that Biden carried comfortably last year.  The midterms are a year away, and much can change.  But Democrats have every reason to be highly concerned, and the conventional wisdom is already moving.  What last night means for the Biden agenda on Capitol Hill moving forward is unclear, though I really don't buy into the talking point that a lack of an infrastructure bill is what cost McAuliffe.  I'll leave you with this.  Does Team Biden even remember how he won the nomination and presidency (especially as the hard left gets pummeled in Minneapolis and Buffalo)?

(9) Another stray thought, which could tempter a little bit of GOP triumphalism today:

(10) Finally, another result worth celebrating.  Major League Baseball's Commissioner, who caved to the leftist mob and pulled the All Star Game out of Atlanta due to political smears, was forced to hand the World Series trophy to the franchise he screwed over with his bad, ignorant, hypocritical decision.  Very satisfying.  I had a brief message for him, along with President Biden -- who predicted Democratic victory in Virginia -- as he landed from his European excursion:


Editor's note: This post has been updated.

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