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Reviews |  What it means if Glenn Youngkin wins

A victory for Youngkin, however, would be significant. This would not only send fear tremors through Democrats nationwide, presumably making the party’s agenda much harder to get through Congress; it would point to a viable path for the GOP to take in the transition zones, a path that stays on board the Trump base while regaining lost ground with independents and commuters.

Of course, no race is completely reproducible and the quality of the candidates is important. Youngkin is not a unique political talent in a generation, but he has proven to be a skillful and attractive activist. On the flip side, McAuliffe is one of the most irrepressible figures in American politics – Bill Clinton doesn’t spend countless hours playing cards with you if you’re not entertaining – but he recently seemed exhausted. , desperate and scared.

If Youngkin is successful, his dodge of Donald Trump will have been a huge factor. In a state like Virginia, you can’t be anti-Trump and win a GOP nomination. But you also can’t be pro-Trump, or too pro-Trump, and win a statewide election.

Youngkin walked this tightrope with a few clever maneuvers – get Trump’s approval, but don’t talk about him or invite him to the state – and going to great lengths to define himself on his own.

For a very long time he only ran biographical ads, the kind of spots that hardened politicians roll the eyes of – he worked as a teenager in a restaurant; he played basketball until he got a scholarship; he ran a business; he raised four children; and, of course, he has nothing to do with a conventional politician.

Youngkin was criticized for running a trouble-free campaign, but the wave of organic advertising signified his response to the question, “Are you pro or anti-Trump?” could be, “I’m Glenn Youngkin.” And, he wanted everyone to know that, that basically means a nice daddy.

Republican Ed Gillespie tried a similar approach at a distance from Trump during his 2017 gubernatorial race, but with Trump in the White House and the reaction to his blank reaction, there was no room for the separation. Youngkin had the opportunity to create his own brand and took advantage of it. What the red MAGA hat is to Trump, the fleece vest – a casual, suburban look, go to Starbucks-after-the-kids’-football-look – is to Youngkin.

It’s a tribute to Youngkin’s branding success that Democrats now essentially have to say, “Whatever that relatable exterior, consider the monster lurking inside.” McAuliffe calls Youngkin “Donald Trump in khaki”. During his appearance for McAuliffe, Barack Obama accused Youngkin of falsely presenting himself as an “ordinary man playing with a hoop, washing dishes and wearing fleece.”

In his own stop in Virginia this week, President Joe Biden also took a sartorial photo. He warned of multiple forms of extremism: “It may come from the rage of a crowd pushed to attack the Capitol. He can come in a smile and a fleece vest.

They are two very different things, however – it will be much easier to make people fear a crowd storming the seat of the United States government than a political candidate whose alleged extremism is to politely but forcefully defend an agenda. fairly standard center-right. Indeed, in politics, once you have to admit that an opponent seems non-threatening, you’ve lost half the battle.

Youngkin carefully avoided the electoral poison of a backward-looking obsession with the 2020 election. He was suspicious of 2020 during the battle for the Republican nomination, then recognized the legitimacy of Biden’s victory. He spoke of auditing Virginia’s voting machines, but this is a common practice already enshrined in Virginia law. When former Trump adviser Steve Bannon made headlines in a bizarre pro-Youngkin event featuring a January 6 flag, Youngkin called it “weird and bogus.”

On issues, he fought fiercely on the typical Democratic terrain of healthcare and especially education, where a Youngkin victory would signal a breakthrough for the GOP. Youngkin has touched on education from the start, whether it’s school closures due to Covid, the need to protect advanced learning, safe schools, or tackling critical race theory. .

McAuliffe’s statement during a debate that parents shouldn’t tell schools what to teach brought these elements together in a powerful way and allowed Youngkin to present himself as the protector of parenting. If McAuliffe loses, his parents’ comment will be remembered as his “deplorable” moment. More importantly, a Youngkin victory would show that educational struggles that have mostly happened at the local level can have an impact at the state level and perhaps at the national level.

Education has taken a predominant place in the suburbs. Suburban areas around Washington, Richmond, and Virginia Beach have suffered greatly from Democrats in recent years, making Virginia a lost cause for Republicans. And Trump’s biggest electoral compromise of winning working class voters and pushing people back into the suburbs worked for him once nationally, in 2016, but has its limits.

Youngkin’s approach has been to give suburban voters “permission” to support him, making himself widely acceptable through his biography and demeanor. On top of that, he joined in the suburban revolt against school boards, especially in Loudoun County, and spoke of an economic program focused on the cost of living.

He now runs with independents. He says he thinks he has a chance of reclaiming Loudoun County, although just making big gains in a county Biden won with 62% of the vote could potentially be a game-changer.

It has been easier for Youngkin to chart his own course in a state-level race, where good Republican candidates can defeat the Blue electorate (see Gov. Larry Hogan in neighboring Maryland, for example). But if he wins, it will show that at least some of the ground Democrats gained during the Trump years can be reclaimed, that the GOP does not need to mindlessly tackle Trump’s vulnerabilities, and that the mi – Next year’s course looks particularly bleak for the Democrats.

Yes, they should fear the fleece.

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