In 2020, then candidate Biden, won Virginia by more than 10% percentage points. The biggest margin of victory for a Democrat in Virginia since Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1944. It was beginning to look like Virgina had transitioned from a purple state to a leaning left type of state. However, Tuesday, November 2nd, the Republican gubernatorial candidate, Glenn Youngkin, beat the Democrat candidate, Terry McAuliffe. This defeat in Virginia was embarrassing for the Democrats. The party also experienced many other letdowns throughout the country. What happened?
For starters, off-year elections typically don’t fare well for the party in charge. For example, in 2018, when Trump was still president, the Democrats won a 36 delegate advantage over the Republicans in the house. Therefore, the fact that the Republicans had a better night than the Democrats isn’t a surprise. However, the margin of victory for the Republicans was way greater than expected and they did surprisingly well in left-leaning states.
First let’s start off with Virgina, whereas I alluded to earlier, the Republican surprisingly beat the Democrat. In this state, many factors contributed to the Republican victory. First of all, Glenn Youngkin ran a great campaign. He perfectly walked the line in between appeasing former President Trump so Trump’s base would vote for him and not cozying up too much to the former president so moderates who voted for Biden in 2020 would also vote for him. Also, the Democrat, Terry McAuiliffe, ran a horrible campaign and he made one critical mistake during a debate that cost him dearly. In a poll taken of Virginia voters, the most important issue was schooling. During a debate, McAuliffe was asked about schooling and said “I’m not going to let parents come into schools and … make their own decision.” YoungKin capitalized on this Gaffe by McAufille and painted a picture that McAuliffe doesn’t want parents involved in their children’s education. Some Democrats speculate that this was the main reason McAuliffe lost.
In another state, New Jersey, Democrats also underwhelmed. In 2020, Biden won New Jersey by almost 16%, but on November 2nd, Democratic incumbent governor Phillip Murphy won by less than 2%. New Jersey is known as a solid Democratic state as it has 2 Democratic senators and a Democratic governor. Despite the political nature of New Jersey, the Democrat barely won. Therefore the November 2nd election result is alarming for all Democratic states in the North East.
New Jersey and Virginia weren’t the only states in which Democrats underperformed. This trend persisted all across the country on November 2nd and many Democrats are wondering what happened.
James Delo, a CCES junior, believes that the election results “epitomize Biden’s failures throughout his presidency.” James thinks that people are fed up with “mask mandates and the democratic party.”‘
Another CCES student, Nico Ludkowski, disagrees with James and believes that the Democrats underperformed in this election because the candidates are too centered and can’t win that way. Nico believes that the Virginia election results should serve as a “wakeup call for the Democratic party to embrace more progressive policies.”
In my opinion, both students are a little off. I believe that the Democrats underperformed because President Biden and his Democratic congress haven’t gotten enough done and the party as a whole is still focused on President Trump while voters are more concerned about what the Democrats will get done. When the Democrats won the runoff elections in Georgia, which solidified a Democratic Congress, the candidates and the party promised voters that with a Democratic congress and President, a plethora of things would get done. They promised voters an infrastructure bill, a Build Back Better agenda, etc. Before the Virginia elections, the Democrats had done none of those things and voters were rightfully disappointed in the party. Also, the Democratic party as a whole still loves to talk about former President Trump. In campaign ad after ad, Democrats are still talking about the January 6th insurrection and failures of Trump during the CoronaVirus. Voters are more concerned about how Democrats will help them in the future than about what Trump did in the past.
If the Democrats want to rebound at the Midterms next November they need to do a few things. First of all, they need to get bills passed in congress. For some reason, President Biden has been too worried about appeasing the far left of his party at the consequence of ignoring the moderates and independents who were the ones that gave him his victory over Trump in 2020. Because of this, he hasn’t gotten anything passed in congress. Also, in any new campaign speech/ad, the words Donald Trump need to be left out. The party needs to start focusing on its agenda for the future instead of the past. If the party stays along the path they are on right now, they will lose the house and maybe the senate in 2022. That would be embarrassing for the party and would stall the agenda of President Biden.