Republican Glenn Youngkin appears to have defeated Democrat Terry McAuliffe to become Virginia’s 74th governor.
With 94 percent of precincts reporting, initial results show Youngkin winning by roughly two points over his rival according to The New York Times.
Both Decision Desk HQ and Dave Wasserman of the Cook Political Report have called the race for Youngkin.
— Decision Desk HQ (@DecisionDeskHQ) November 3, 2021
I’ve seen enough: Glenn Youngkin (R) defeats Terry McAuliffe (D) in the Virginia governor’s race. #VAGOV
— Dave Wasserman (@Redistrict) November 3, 2021
McAuliffe, who had served as the commonwealth’s governor from 2014 to 2018, was the favorite to win back the position.
Virginia law prohibits governors from serving back-to-back terms.
Do you think the Virginia governor’s race is a bellwether for the 2022 midterms?
McAuliffe held the advantage in polling throughout much of the campaign; however, by mid-October, the race tightened with multiple surveys showing the two candidates neck-and-neck.
A Fox News poll released Thursday showed Youngkin taking his biggest lead over McAuliffe, 53 to 45 percent.
The Real Clear Politics Average on election eve also gave Youngkin a slightly less than 2 percent edge.
A turning point in the race appears to have been when McAuliffe declared during a Sept. 28 debate, “I don’t think parents should be telling schools what they should teach.”
Terry McAuliffe: “I don’t think parents should be telling schools what they should teach.” pic.twitter.com/rs6pSWZw79
— Corey A. DeAngelis (@DeAngelisCorey) October 30, 2021
Youngkin released an ad the next day featuring McAuliffe’s statement.
Education soon became a leading issue in the race.
A Washington Post-Schar School poll released last week found 24 percent of those surveyed listed education as the top issue in the race, up from 15 percent in September.
The next highest polling issue was the economy at 23 percent.
The Post pointed out that prior to the debate, McAuliffe held a 33-point lead among the so-called education voters, but in the most recent survey, that lead had slipped to 1 percent (47 to 46 percent).
In the handling of the economy, Youngkin held a 4-point lead over McAuliffe.
In a “Meet The Press” interview Sunday, the Democrat said Youngkin “created hatred and division just like Donald Trump, and that’s why Donald Trump, his final campaign is going to be for Glenn Younkin here in Virginia. We don’t want Trump. We don’t want Youngkin. We don’t want the hatred and division.”
Youngkin appeared to recognize during the campaign that he obviously needed Trump’s base to win the election and gladly accepted his endorsement in May.
On election eve, Trump urged his supporters via a TeleRally and through public statements to get out and vote for Youngkin, who, like the former president, had gone directly from the business world to run for office.
However, Trump did not campaign in Virginia.
“Hopefully everyone will get out and VOTE tomorrow for Glenn Youngkin, who will be a fantastic Governor for the Great State of Virginia. Glenn is a very successful businessman who knows how to make Virginia’s economy (which is doing poorly!), great—and he has had my pic.twitter.com/qKqI1q4iXr
— Liz Harrington (@realLizUSA) November 1, 2021
Washington Examiner correspondent David Drucker tweeted Monday, “I’ve talked to Virginia Republicans & other Rs working VA races — they can live with Trump saying nice things about @GlennYoungkin from afar. What they absolutely didn’t want was a pre-#VAGOV Election Day visit and/or rally in commonwealth. Appears wish was granted.”
I’ve talked to Virginia Republicans & other Rs working VA races — they can live with Trump saying nice things about @GlennYoungkin from afar. What they absolutely didn’t want was a pre-#VAGOV Election Day visit and/or rally in commonwealth. Appears wish was granted
— David M. Drucker (@DavidMDrucker) November 1, 2021
Political watchers have noted the Virginia governor’s race can be a bellwether for how the federal midterm elections will play out the following year.
This was definitely true in 2009, when Republican Bob McDonnell defeated Democrat Creigh Deeds to become Virginia’s 71st governor, with 58.6 percent of the vote.
He was the last Republican elected to lead the commonwealth.
The win came after Democratic then-presidential candidate Barack Obama carried Virginia by a little over 6 percentage points in 2008.
In the 2010 midterms, the GOP retook the House of Representatives in a Tea Party-fueled rout, picking up a net 63 seats.