Virginia governor race: Glenn Youngkin wins 2021 election over Terry McAuliffe, CNN projects

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McAuliffe’s loss in a state that President Joe Biden won in double digits last year has shown the enormous challenges Democrats will face next year as they try to maintain control of the House and Senate Americans. McAuliffe, who served as governor from 2014 to 2018 in a state that does not allow successive terms, had struggled to find a message that would galvanize Democrats at a time when Biden’s approval ratings plummeted and the party has been unable to deliver a clear message amid wrangling over the president’s agenda in Congress.

McAuliffe had hoped to win a second non-consecutive term by trying to tie Youngkin to former President Donald Trump. But that strategy fell flat – failing to train the Democrats McAuliffe needed to solidify Youngkin’s momentum and his gains among independent voters. The momentum provided a warning to some Democrats who had hoped to use this strategy to defeat their Republican opponents next year in the midterm races. The bitter mood of voters also appeared to be a factor in the New Jersey governor’s much tighter-than-expected race.

Virginia Democrats clearly underestimated Youngkin, a nimble candidate who has immersed himself in local issues like education and championed parental rights. The Republican managed to keep Trump at bay, but praised him early in the race – managing to avoid alienating his supporters while still managing to play a role for critical voters in suburban Northern Virginia who have rejected Trump last year.

Late Tuesday night, Youngkin was outperforming the previous Republican gubernatorial candidate four years ago and also significantly outperforming Trump’s margins in suburban Virginia, which had an increasingly Democratic lean. McAuliffe’s margins, on the other hand, have fallen below tally in previous contests for Biden and current Virginia Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam in key areas of the state.

Youngkin addressed his supporters, promising to keep his school choice campaign promises and cut some taxes in the state.

“We are going to hug our parents, not ignore them. We are going to move forward with a program that includes listening to parents, as well as a program that allows our children to run as fast as they can, their learning how to think, allowing their dreams to soar. Friends, we will restore excellence in our schools, “he said.

McAuliffe did not call on Youngkin to concede, a campaign aide told CNN, and said he was unlikely to do so tonight.

He appeared briefly in front of his supporters on Tuesday night. “We still have a lot of votes to count,” the Democrat said. “We will continue to count the votes.”

McAuliffe had made a bet by centering his campaign on the idea that Youngkin was a Trump “wannabe”. In the closing days of the election campaign, he called Youngkin “Glenn Trumpkin” and argued that a Youngkin victory in Virginia would embolden Trump ahead of a possible White House candidacy in 2024, but that argument does not appear to have worked out. boosted Democratic voters. McAuliffe had hoped. Youngkin exploited some of Trump’s rhetoric to appeal to the GOP base – citing some culture war issues and talking about “electoral integrity” at the start of the race, for example – but he avoided the telegraphy Trump held Monday night for the Republican ticket.

Winsome Sears, a conservative Republican, will be Virginia’s next lieutenant governor, breaking down barriers as the first woman and first woman of color in office in the Commonwealth’s 400-year legislative history.

Preliminary results from CNN’s Virginia exit poll demonstrated the tough headwinds McAuliffe faced as he tried to navigate his party’s contention. Only 43% of Virginians said they approved of Biden’s performance at work, and a slim majority of voters described the Democratic Party as too liberal on the whole; while fewer voters described the Republican Party as too conservative.

About a third of Virginia voters called the economy the most significant problem facing the state, according to the exit poll. Just under a quarter said education was the most important, around 15% chose taxes, around 14% declared the Covid-19 pandemic. About a tenth chose abortion.

Voters in Virginia held negative views on Biden and Trump. Only about a fifth of voters said they saw their vote as a way to express their support for Biden, with nearly 3 in 10 saying it was a way to voice their opposition, and the remaining half of the electorate saying Biden was not a factor.

Despite McAuliffe’s efforts to demonize Youngkin as a warrior Trump, who said the former president “represents so much why I am running for business,” the Republican campaign has portrayed him as a father and a Virginia businessman. of the North not threatening and wearing a fleece vest. who coached basketball in his spare time.

Youngkin wooed suburban voters by digging into GOP culture wars – vowing to protect law enforcement funding amid concerns about rising nationwide crime, rejecting Covid vaccine warrants -19 for teachers and state employees, and swearing that Virginia schools “won’t teach our children to see everything through the prism of race.” In an era when the electorate has grown In addition to embracing newcomers to politics, Youngkin has described his rival as the ultimate political insider as a former chairman of the Democratic National Committee and a top fundraiser for Bill and Hillary Clinton for decades.

In a message to suburban women, Youngkin accused McAuliffe of allowing the government to stand between parents and their children in education, seizing a comment from the Democrat in a debate that he did not think “parents should tell schools what to teach. ”

One of Youngkin’s closing announcements featured Fairfax County mother and conservative activist Laura Murphy, claiming that a book her then-high school son was instructed to read had given her nightmares. The book, which does not mention the name in the advertisement, was “Beloved” by Toni Morrison, which deals with the horrors of slavery. Murphy had led a campaign against teaching the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, culminating in two bills – ultimately vetoed by McAuliffe – that would have allowed parents to reject certain tasks they saw as self-explanatory.

Democrats jumped at the ad, McAuliffe calling it a “racist dog whistle” and arguing that his Republican opponent was using education to divide Virginia by pitting parents against parents and parents against teachers.

Difficult lift for Democrats despite recent Virginia blue streak

McAuliffe has worked against Democratic voter burnout, a more energetic Republican base, and Biden’s declining popularity. A chaotic pullout from Afghanistan, a Covid-19 surge fueled by the Delta variant, and a sluggish economy have all taken their toll on Biden, who has struggled to unite his party around his platform.

Progressive and Moderate Democrats in Congress spent months arguing over the size and scope of the president’s social and climate safety net package, but even though there had been a vote on that economic plan of 1.75 million dollars and bipartisan infrastructure by Tuesday of this week, it would have been far too late to boost McAuliffe in a state where early voting began weeks ago.

With no tangible achievement to report from Democratic-controlled Washington, McAuliffe made no secret of his frustration. He demanded that members of Congress “do their job and stop asking,” in an interview with CNN.

The national mood has deteriorated amid lingering fears, restrictions and frustrations over the Covid-19 pandemic and uncertain economic recovery. Voters are concerned about inflation, the higher prices they pay as the holiday season approaches, and supply chain bottlenecks that have disrupted the economy. The latest CNN poll found that the president got 42% approval versus 51% disapproval among American adults, and in a national NBC News poll released on Sunday, 7 in 10 said the country was heading in the wrong direction.

The debates were marked by strong political contrasts between the two candidates. Youngkin had argued that McAuliffe’s government spending plans were too costly and said he would fuel an economic stimulus in Virginia by cutting taxes, including the “grocery tax” which Youngkin said would allow Virginians save $ 1,500 in the first year of implementation.

McAuliffe had pledged a $ 2 billion investment in education – double the amount he offered in his first term – and touted 20 plans he made to pull the state out of the Covid pandemic . He also called for Covid-19 vaccine warrants for state teachers, healthcare workers and other essential employees, arguing that Youngkin’s resistance to such measures would jeopardize the state’s recovery. .

Youngkin said that although he has asked everyone in Virginia “to get the vaccine please,” he believes the sacking of workers who do not comply with vaccine mandates could cripple the State economically.

“We need people on the job. To make life difficult, this is no way to go and serve Virginians,” Youngkin said during the final candidate debate. “We can do it. We can actually protect lives and livelihoods.”

This story was updated with the CNN screening.

Eric Bradner and Dan Merica contributed to this report.


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