This Republican's political brand is in jeopardy in Virginia: report
Governor of Virginia Glenn Youngkin speaks during campaign stop. (Shutterstock.com)

When Glenn Youngkin won Virginia’s gubernatorial race in November 2021, it was a major disappointment for Democrats. Virginia, once dominated by Republicans, has evolved into a swing state and is arguably the best state for Democrats in the South. Virginia has two Democratic U.S. Senators (Tim Kaine and Mark Warner), and a Republican hasn’t won Virginia in a presidential race since George W. Bush in 2004.

But in 2021, Youngkin portrayed himself as a traditional Mitt Romney type of business conservative, and he defeated Democrat Terry McAuliffe by about 2 percent. Democrats, however, fared better in Virginia in the 2022 midterms. Although Democratic strategists saw Youngkin’s victory as a bad omen for the midterms, their overall performance in 2022 turned out to be much better than expected. Democrats narrowly lost the U.S. House of Representatives — where Rep. Kevin McCarthy is now speaker — but slightly increased their U.S. Senate majority and won gubernatorial races in Pennsylvania, Arizona, Michigan, Wisconsin and other swing states.

In an article published by The Hill on January 13, reporter Julia Manchester lays out some reasons why Youngkin’s “political brand” is “facing a potential setback after a series of disappointing GOP losses in the commonwealth.”

“The latest blow came earlier this week, when Democrat Aaron Rouse flipped a GOP seat in Virginia’s Senate, bringing the Democratic majority to 22-18 in the chamber,” Manchester observes. “Youngkin had thrown his endorsement behind Republican challenger Kevin Adams, who lost the state’s 7th Senate District, previously held by now-Rep. Jen Kiggans (R-Va.) by 348 votes. That followed the party’s underwhelming performance in the state during November’s midterms.”

Youngkin, Manchester notes, didn’t have much success campaigning for fellow Republicans in 2022.

“In last year’s midterms,” the reporter points out, “Republicans took aim at incumbent Virginia Democratic Reps. Abigail Spanberger, Jennifer Wexton and Elaine Luria. Youngkin played a public role on the midterm campaign trail in Virginia, stumping with GOP candidates in hopes of bolstering them on the ballot. But Republicans were only able to oust Luria, even though she outperformed McAuliffe’s 2021 performance in the district. The 2nd Congressional District, which encompasses the 7th State Senate District won by Rouse, was redrawn in a way that favored Republicans.”

Youngkin has often been mentioned as a possible presidential candidate for 2024, but Bob Holsworth, a long-time political analyst in Virginia, isn’t very bullish on Youngkin’s prospects for moving ahead in his party.

Holsworth told The Hill, “He’s yet to be successful in transferring his popularity around the state. These last results should focus the Republican mind and have them understand that the Youngkin victory was not necessarily a sign of what was going to come…. It’s a wakeup call to suggest that the Youngkin election has not been followed by this period of Republican success.”

Nonetheless, Holsworth points out that Youngkin is “going to have a lot of money” in the months to come and is “a very successful fundraiser.”

One issue that worked well for Democrats in the 2022 midterms was abortion. From Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to Sen. John Fetterman of Pennsylvania to Arizona Gov. Katie Hobbs, many Democrats campaigned on abortion rights in swing states and won. Whitmer, in fact, defeated her far-right MAGA Republican challenger Tudor Dixon by 11 percent, inspiring some Democratic strategists to speculate on the possibility of Whitmer running for president in 2028 (assuming President Joe Biden seeks reelection next year).

In Virginia, Youngkin has proposed a 15-week abortion ban. But Holsworth says that in the Virginia State Legislature, “The abortion ban is dead. That will go nowhere.”

According to White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre, the abortion issue worked well for the House in the midterms.

Jean-Pierre told The Hill, “He made his campaign clear about the choice Americans across the country have between extreme MAGA Republican policies that will take away women’s ability to make their own health care decisions and Democrats focused on expanding access to reproductive care and lowering costs for American families. It’s not just in Virginia. This was, of course, a critical issue in the midterm elections.”