In 2021, Terry McAuliffe, the Democratic candidate for governor of Virginia, held a commanding lead and was easily considered the favorite to win in the blue-trending state. Except he didn’t win. The topic of parental rights in education proved to be the deciding factor in the race, propelling political newcomer Glenn Youngkin to a stunning upset victory and giving Republicans a majority in the House of Delegates.
That race proved that Democrats had become too extreme and that Republicans have a path to victory running on social issues, not running from them. The radical agenda of the Democrats made them lose sight of the issues that average Americans care about, and their defeat in Virginia proved that Republicans could win on social issues.
The question is, will Virginia start trending blue again? Or has there been a seismic shift and the state that hasn’t voted for a Republican for president since 2004 is trending red?
Right now, it’s anyone’s guess how it will turn out because things are looking very much purple. But next month we may get a clue about the answer.
Last month, a poll from the Center for Leadership and Media Studies at the University of Mary Washington found that “Virginians are nearly evenly divided in their preferences for the upcoming legislative elections, with 40 percent favoring Democratic Party majorities in the House of Delegates and the Senate of Virginia next year, while 37 percent said they wanted Republican legislative majorities.”
“Virginia has rapidly returned to its purple state status,” said Stephen J. Farnsworth, professor of political science at the University of Mary Washington. “This new statewide survey shows that Virginia’s voters are basically evenly divided as they approach the upcoming Virginia legislative elections.”
The results of the survey were echoed by a more recent poll from Founders Insight, which similarly found that Democrats and Republicans are basically dead even in the generic ballot for the General Assembly, with 11% undecided. If Youngkin wants to keep the House of Delegates red and flip the Senate, there’s a lot of work to be done.
That said, a deep dive into the poll shows that Republicans should have an advantage. Sixty-one percent of Virginians believe they are taxed too much, 50% have a negative view of Bidenomics (compared to 30% who have a positive view), and a whopping 65% say they’ve felt the impact of inflation at the grocery store. Sixty-nine percent say they’d support a candidate who supports tax relief policies in light of the recent budget surplus.
These are all good issues for Republicans. On top of that, Youngkin’s political action committee has been raising large sums of money to support GOP legislative candidates.
“Governor Youngkin has now raised $15.5 million since March 1, 2023, to support our candidates,” Dave Rexrode, the chairman of the Spirit of Virginia PAC, told The Hill. “Due to our incredible nominees, the opportunity we have to move Virginia forward, and our generous donors, we have already surpassed our own internal goal for the year, but we have more work to do.”
Indeed so. If Republicans can hold the House of Delegates and flip the Senate, it bodes well for Virginia once again going red in the 2024 presidential election.