“Sic semper tyrannis.” It’s Latin for “thus always to tyrants.” It’s Virginia’s state motto. Few Virginians are aware of it.
Until a few months ago, few Virginians were aware of Glenn Youngkin, either. But in the coming days, many will know more
about Virginia (and Youngkin) than they cared to know.
The reason? Youngkin, a Republican, could win the governor’s race in a state that, according to the nation’s best political
commentators, was a lost cause for the party. If he does win—and we stress if—Youngkin could be the GOP’s Deus ex
machina, or the external shock emanating from across the Potomac, leaving more chaos in its wake.
That a former private equity executive is statistically tied with former Virginia governor and Democratic political
operative Terry McAuliffe, is nothing short of remarkable, especially given that, six months ago, Youngkin’s name ID was
in single digits. It’s been over a decade since a Republican won statewide. The following chart courtesy of the New York
Times neatly conveys the story:
The conventional political wisdom about Virginia was best summarized in The Breeze, the newspaper of James Madison
University. “Based on previous elections and polling for Nov. 3,” the paper reported last year, “the time when Democrats
lacked urban and suburban support in Virginia seems to have ended and a new era of state politics may be on the rise.”
“It’s just not a good formula long term,” J. Miles Coleman, associate editor of Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball, told The Breeze.
Youngkin apparently agrees. While he assumes conservative stances on immigration, crime, and guns to the satisfaction
of the GOP base, Youngkin has effectively deemphasized those issues—instead leading with sustained broadsides against
the left’s K-12 education policies.
The Youngkin campaign sensed something smoldering this summer, as parents angrily confronted school board officials,
most prominently in Loudon County—no Republican stronghold, mind you—over what they viewed as divisive social
engineering in the classroom. When during the final gubernatorial debate on September 30, McAuliffe spluttered, “I don’t
think parents should be telling schools what they should teach,” the gaffe went viral, and Youngkin’s 30-second campaign
ad wrote itself.
If the polls are accurate—again, a big if—education is top of mind for Virginia voters. As a result, Youngkin, and other
Republicans following his playbook, could gain serious traction with the suburban vote, seemingly lost to the party
Let’s be clear: Virginia is a blue state. So even if Youngkin loses, Republicans we speak with still see a silver lining. In their
view, if McAuliffe wins by, say, 1 percent, it will represent a 9-point swing from the 2020 election, when Biden beat Trump
in Virginia by 10 points.
‘DE JA VU’ ALL OVER AGAIN
It seems like “de ja vu all over again.” Recall 2009, the last time the GOP won the Virginia governor’s race, just one year
after Barack Obama’s historic election victory. After a year of the Obama Administration, an invigorated right, led by the
nascent Tea Party movement, catapulted then state-Attorney General Bob McDonnell to an astonishing 18-point victory
over Democrat Creigh Deeds. Coupled with Chris Christie’s win in New Jersey, these races were the harbinger of the
GOP’s congressional blow-out in 2010, when they recaptured the U.S. House of Representatives.
Make no mistake: you wouldn’t know it from the mainstream media, but according to the latest on-the-ground data, New
Jersey’s governor race is now in serious contention. Victories in Virginia, let alone in both states—or again, even narrow
losses, counting as moral victories—could presage disaster for Democrats in next year’s midterms—and possibly beyond.
House Democrats have been getting distressing news in the form of two recent announced retirements: Representatives
Mike Doyle (PA) and David Price (NC), two seats that Republicans could certainly win. As of now, 13 House Democrats
won’t be running next year. Recall that Republicans only need to win 5 seats to retake the House (the smallest majority
that Democrats have held since World War II).
While midterms are over a year away—an eternity in electoral politics—the nation’s political headwinds strongly
favor the GOP:
The President’s party historically loses seats in midterm elections (according to Karl Rove, since World War II, the
party controlling the White House has lost an average of 28 seats in its first midterm).
- Republicans firmly control the redistricting process (see Texas, for example, where new district lines alone could give
Republicans 5 to 15 seats).
- Biden’s approval rating is plummeting, now at 38 percent, according to Quinnipiac.
- President Clinton in 1994 and President Obama in 2010 were at 46% and 45% approval, respectively, and both lost
control of the House, with Clinton losing 53 seats and Obama losing 63 seats.
- According to Quinnipiac, in May, the generic ballot was D+9; today it stands as R+3 (any pollster worth their salt will
tell you the GOP almost never polls ahead in the generic ballot).
- The latest Politico/Morning Consult poll found 62% say the nation is on the “wrong track.”
VIRGINIA, CONGRESS, AND THE “NINE-WAY TEETER-TOTTER”
What does all this mean for the fracas over reconciliation, infrastructure, the debt limit, and the end-of-year budget
showdown? Again, if Youngkin wins, passing these big-ticket items—already challenging amidst Democrats’ factional
infighting—could get harder. Of course, it could all come together, for as Samuel Johnson once said, “Depend upon it, sir,
when a man knows he is about to be hanged in a fortnight, it concentrates his mind wonderfully.”
Consider where we are. Despite projected optimism from Democratic party leadership, the notion of passing
reconciliation and infrastructure legislation, even just in the House, before Halloween was always far-fetched. How about
an announced framework agreement? President Biden this morning released exactly that, but it’s not clear, as Sen. Dick
Durbin (D-IL) noted, that all 50 Democrats support it, as, in his words, “there’s a great deal of uncertainty within the
caucus as to what’s contained in the deal.”
Frameworks are one thing; but locking down legislative text, under extreme political duress, is quite another. As we’ve
noted, the fundamental difficulty in this exercise lies in reconciling Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WVA) together with Progressive
House Democrats, who, like their polar- opposite, the Freedom Caucus, are demonstrating, at least at this stage, iron-willed
resolve against compromise.
Attempts to get Manchin on board have seemed heavy-handed. To have an elderly socialist from Vermont write an op-ed
in a West Virginia newspaper chastising Manchin as a shill for corporate America, selling out seniors, the middle class, and
children—there are better ways, it seems, to pick up votes.
Recall that Trump carried West Virginia by 39 points in 2020. Not surprisingly, Manchin’s response was swift, direct,
This isn’t the first time an out-of-stater has tried to tell West Virginians what is best for them despite having no
relationship to our state…Senator Sanders’ answer is to throw more money on an already overheated economy
while 52 other Senators have grave concerns about this approach. To be clear, again, Congress should proceed
with caution on any additional spending and I will not vote for a reckless expansion of government programs. No
op-ed from a self-declared Independent socialist is going to change that.
It’s time now to play four-dimensional chess to bridge the party’s yawning progressive-moderate divide. But how?
One thing is obvious, but worth stating: Few Republicans will help with any of this. Not that Democrats need them for
reconciliation, of course. But when it comes to the CR and debt limit, they might.
End-of-year spending/debt limit battles of recent vintage have been resolved by the so-called “Big Four”: in this case,
Speaker Pelosi (D-CA), House Minority Leader McCarthy (R-CA), Senate Majority Leader Schumer (D-NY), and Senate
Minority Leader McConnell (R-KY). But maybe not this time. McCarthy is inches from holding the Speaker’s gavel in 2023;
along with GOP members eyeing chairmanships, we’re confident McCarthy won’t spend any political capital helping Pelosi
get a CR-debt-limit deal across the House floor.
Same goes for McConnell. Earlier this month, McConnell helped Schumer pass a short-term debt-limit deal. But
Schumer couldn’t resist taunting Republican senators once it passed. He accused them of playing a “dangerous and risky
partisan game.” He said Democrats were able to “pull our country back from the cliff’s edge that Republicans tried to
push us over.”
Sen. Mike Rounds (R-SD), one of 11 Republicans who voted for the deal, was incensed. Schumer, he said, “gave a classless
speech.” Another “yes” vote, Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH), called it an “unnecessarily partisan speech.” And yet another,
Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT), no firebrand himself, said, “there’s a time to be graceful and there’s a time to be combative, and
that was a time for grace.” Republicans we talk with say this is senatorial euphemism for: “Screw you, Chuck.”
Many of these senators will be reluctant to help come December—especially after a loss in Virginia next Tuesday. Last
week, retiring Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL), ranking member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, and one of the 11
Republicans who voted to proceed to the short-term deal, said he wouldn’t do so again, “and I don’t think any of
In a remarkably scathing letter to Biden after the debt-limit vote, McConnell wrote, “I am writing to make it clear that in
light of Senator Schumer’s hysterics and my grave concerns about the ways that another vast, reckless, partisan spending
bill would hurt Americans and help China, I will not be a party to any future effort to mitigate the consequences of
Democratic mismanagement.” He added: “This childish behavior only further alienated the Republican members who
helped facilitate this short-term patch. It has poisoned the well even further.”
As negotiations sputter along, likely into November, and possibly December, all four bills, in the eyes of Republicans, have
become one big disaster of the Democrats’ own making. Put simply, for Republicans, everything is linked: reconciliation,
infrastructure, debt limit, and the CR. Democrats are in charge, they say, so let them fix it. The days of Big Four deals
appear to be long gone.
The backdrop to this chaos is that, with each passing day, gasoline approaches $4.00 a gallon; inflation inches higher;
supply chains are bottlenecking; and labor shortages worsen. So as reconciliation negotiations drag on, passing hard and
“human” infrastructure, as one senior White House official told Politico, is like riding a “nine-way teeter-totter.”
Add into this volatile mix an upset victory by Republicans in Virginia. It could be, as one pundit described it to us, “some
pretty high-octane gasoline added to a growing inferno.” Again, maybe. But a win next week could reverberate not just in
2021, but in 2022 and even 2024.