(National Review) Virginia Republicans’ hopes for unified control of Richmond were dashed Tuesday evening, as popular governor Glenn Youngkin’s coattails failed to pull Republicans across the finish line in a number of swing-seat state legislative districts.
Democrats retained their majority in the state senate, according to the Associated Press, and reclaimed the majority in the formerly GOP-controlled house of delegates. Having been denied unified control of Virginia government, Youngkin’s sweeping agenda will likely be stymied in the upcoming legislative session, leaving his highly anticipated rise to the national stage in doubt.
Republicans leaned heavily this off-year cycle into Youngkin’s 2021 strategy by focusing on job growth, combating crime, tax relief, and parental involvement in their children’s education. Democrats, meanwhile, spent millions campaigning in favor abortion rights and hitting Republicans for wanting to “ban” abortion, a reference to Youngkin’s 15-week proposal with exceptions for rape, incest, and life of the mother. Bashing that 15-week standard proved successful for Democrats, who continue to bet that pro-choice messaging is a winning issue for their party at the ballot box.
Democrats performed well even though pre-Election Day polls showed President Joe Biden — who won the state by ten points in 2020 — trailing Youngkin in the popularity department. It’s no wonder then that the president stayed off the campaign trail and some swing-seat Democrats like Henrico-area delegate Rodney Willett went so far as to name-check Youngkin in their own pre-election advertising. Neither could Virginia Democrats call on former governor Terry McAuliffe, who is now considered persona non grata in Virginia Democratic circles after his negative and nationalized 2021 gubernatorial campaign helped propel Republicans to their first statewide victories in more than a decade.
So to juice turnout, Virginia Democrats called on a slate of out-of-state, high-profile Democratic surrogates to hammer voters with abortion messaging. Former President Barack Obama recorded robocalls. Former House speaker Nancy Pelosi helped fund-raise. And a handful of Democratic governors with national ambitions — Wes Moore of Maryland, J.B. Pritzker of Illinois, and Gavin Newsom of California — campaigned, cut checks, or sent fundraising emails on behalf of Virginia Democrats in the lead up to Election Day, no doubt using the opportunity to raise their own profiles and prematurely attach themselves to victory in the event of a clean sweep from Democrats.
Two West Coast surrogates in particular made their way into Republicans’ Election Eve Republican rally in Leesburg, the blue-trending Northern Virginia suburb where Democrats ended up winning a competitive state Senate election on Tuesday. “Do you want to California our Virginia?” Attorney General Jason Miyares asked voters from the stump Monday evening, eliciting a resounding “No!” from the crowd. “We’re gonna say it a little bit louder so Gavin Newsom and Nancy Pelosi can hear.”