The latest Emerson poll in Virginia has the gubernatorial race between Republican challenger Glenn Youngkin and former Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe a statistical tie: 48 percent to 48 percent as Youngkin has closed what was once a 9-point gap as recently as September.
Similar poll results from Monmouth and Trafalgar Group have the race as a dead heat, and with Election Day on Nov. 2, this could be the GOP’s best chance at flipping the state in more than a decade — setting the stage for the 2022 midterms.
How Virginia turns out could have massive implications for 2022 as Republicans seek to reclaim majorities in the House and the Senate, as President Joe Biden has taken a beating in national polls since August amid rising inflation, a languishing legislative agenda and a botched military withdrawal from Afghanistan that has left hundreds of Americans stranded.
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The fact that the Virginia race is even close is probably a very good sign for Republicans headed into 2022, as Virginia has trended blue since 2013. Republicans have not won a statewide election in Virginia since 2009, when Bob McDonnell easily beat Creigh Deeds.
In 2020, President Joe Biden won the state by 10 points against former President Donald Trump, 54 percent to 44 percent. And in 2017, Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam beat Republican challenger Ed Gillespie by 9 points, 54 percent to 45 percent. That followed a close race between McAuliffe and former Virginia Republican Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli in 2013, when McAuliffe won by just a point.
The race in Virginia has tightened right at the same time Republicans have started showing up in the generic Congressional ballot question and as Biden’s approval rating has been tanking.
In the 2010 midterm cycle, Nov. 2009 was about the time Republicans consistently began to lead the generic congressional vote in national polls. For 2022, Quinnipiac’s early October poll has Republicans leading, 47 percent to 44 percent, but most outlets still show Democrats leading. After Tuesday, watch for the polls to start consistently showing Republicans in the lead headed into the New Year.
2022 will in all likelihood be a great year for Republicans. In midterm elections dating back to 1906 through 2018, the party that occupies the White House usually loses seats in the House 90 percent of time, on average 31 seats, and loses seats in the Senate 71 percent of the time, on average about three seats.
That’s more than enough for Republicans to take back one or both chambers of Congress in 2022.
Which is why Virginia is so important as a bellwether. Traditionally, the state votes for the opposite party of what it voted for in the prior year’s presidential election, a pattern that was disrupted in 2013, when McAuliffe defeated Cuccinelli after former President Barack Obama was reelected. Could 2021 be a return to form? Possibly, but the state is still much bluer than it was a decade ago.
Still, if McAuliffe can barely tie Youngkin in a plus-10-points Democratic state, then potentially every Democrat in Congress in a plus-10-or-less district could be vulnerable. A recent poll by the National Republican Congressional Committee bears this out, with Republicans leading Democrats 43 percent to 40 percent in 85 battleground Congressional districts for 2022. This early in the cycle, that has to be horrible news for Biden and Democrats, who are watching a rapidly diminishing window of opportunity to pass legislation.
If the race is close in Virginia on Tuesday, watch for Democrats in Congress to start heading for the life rafts. Stay tuned.
Robert Romano is the Vice President of Public Policy at Americans for Limited Government.
Cross-posted with The Daily Torch
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