Virginia Gov.-elect Glenn Youngkin is being hailed as a new model for Republican candidates in the post-Donald Trump era, thanks to his come-from-behind victory in a Democratic-leaning state.
Political experts predict that many GOP candidates in competitive states will follow Youngkin’s lead in 2022, embracing Trump’s base and promoting his right-leaning populist issues while maintaining a noticeable distance from the volatile ex-president himself.
Among Republicans who are still wary of Trump, Youngkin’s victory over Democrat Terry McAuliffe is a welcome sign that the GOP is coming together. However, that strategy will most likely be used in closely divided purple states or in more Democratic-leaning congressional districts. Republicans will be more than happy to run as Trump acolytes in some cases.
Meanwhile, Trump and his hard-line supporters are hailing Youngkin’s victory as proof that the “Make America Great Again” crowd is a permanent fixture in the Republican Party, and they are emphasizing that other Republicans should go all-in on Trump in the 2022 elections.
Some Republicans argue that this strategy risks increasing party division and jeopardizing their chances of regaining control of Congress and major state governorships. According to conservative political analyst Rick Tyler, “red Republican states and congressional districts will have fringe candidates who dominate the primaries.” “And that will continue to complicate Republican messaging until and unless the (Republican) Party imposes discipline from top to bottom.”
During the final weeks of the campaign, Youngkin, a former CEO of the private equity firm Carlyle Group running in his first political race, tapped into parents’ frustration with classroom curricula.
Youngkin did not criticize Trump throughout the campaign, but instead focused on Trumpian themes such as tax cuts, opposition to COVID-19 mask and vaccination mandates, and “critical race theory.” He never appeared with Trump in person.
Beyond the decisions of any particular individual, critical race theory is a framework that incorporates historical racial discrimination into discussions of race. The theory is not taught in Virginia’s public K-12 schools.
Card, on the other hand, said Youngkin “nailed it” with conservative-leaning suburban voters. She added that Youngkin’s friendlier demeanor drew white women in those areas back to the GOP.
Exit polling, for example, found that white women voters in Virginia without a college degree favored Youngkin by roughly 20 percentage points more than Trump the year before. White women with a college education, on the other hand, voted for Youngkin by 38 percent, compared to 41 percent for Trump in 2020.
Katie Paris, founder of Red, Wine, and Blue, a liberal-leaning grassroots group led by suburban women, said Democrats underestimated how conservative suburban parents were galvanized by Virginia’s pursuit of other equity policies in education.
While maintaining his distance from Youngkin, Trump repeatedly proclaimed his support for him in interviews and written statements – and quickly claimed credit for his victory on Tuesday.
The former president has already endorsed a slew of like-minded allies who will face off against establishment Republicans in GOP primaries next year. Trump’s list includes some of the ten House Republicans who voted to impeach him over the Jan. 6 insurgency at the United States Capitol, which is sure to be a major issue throughout the 2022 campaign.
If Trump-backed candidates win their primaries, such as North Carolina U.S. Senate candidate Ted Budd, they will not avoid Trump in fall campaigns against Democrats, as Youngkin did.
They claim that being too close to Trump will hurt Republicans in competitive states such as Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin.
Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., who is being challenged in a Republican primary in Wyoming by a Trump supporter, congratulated Youngkin by highlighting the non-Trump aspects of his campaign. Analysts believe that it may be difficult for some Republicans to reject Trump in the same way that Youngkin did. For starters, the wealthy businessman funded his own campaign, so he could afford to ignore Trump.
During a congressional hearing on Wednesday, House Republicans who back Trump cited the Virginia election as evidence of strong voter opposition to vaccine mandates and “woke” school board policies.
Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-NY, sought to tie federal law enforcement officials to a contentious Oct. 4 memorandum by Attorney General Merrick Garland, which asked federal authorities to investigate potential increases in threats of violence “against school administrators, board members, teachers, and staff” as a result of such frustrations.