Stunned Democrats react to Glenn Youngkin’s Virginia win

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Stunned Democrats react to Glenn Youngkin's Virginia win

​Democrats gobsmacked by Republican Glenn Youngkin’s stunning win in the Virginia gubernatorial race — and a nail-biter still to be decided in New Jersey — sounded the alarm Wednesday that the party has to come up with a message beyond being against former President Donald Trump before the 2022 midterm elections.

The political novice’s victory over Democrat Terry McAuliffe in a race seen as a bellwether for elections in 2022 and beyond dealt a blow to Democrats who watched as President Biden’s 10 percentage-point margin of victory last year in Virginia evaporated. 

One Democrat said his party needs a message that will resonate with voters and spur them to the polls. ​

“Being anti-Trump is not enough,” former Rep. Tom Perriello, a Virginia Democrat, told Politico.

“Democrats need to run on results, and this should light a fire under frontline Democrats to get Build Back Better passed.”

Glenn Youngkin
Glenn Youngkin’s win in the Virginia gubernatorial race has Democrats scrambling to come up with a message beyond being against former President Donald Trump before the 2022 midterm elections.
Ken Cedeno/POOL/EPA-EFE/Shutters

Some said the bruising defeat should provide all the incentive they need to knuckle down and pass Biden’s $1.75 trillion spending plan that’s stalled amid infighting between progressive Democrats in the House and moderates in the Senate.

Guy Cecil, chairman of Priorities USA, which advocates for a progressive agenda, said Virginia “is a warning for all Democrats.”

“While DC Democrats spent weeks fighting each other, Republicans were focused on mobilizing their base and peeling away voters from the Biden coalition using deceptive, divisive tactics,” Cecil said in a statement.

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe
Terry McAuliffe’s loss in Virginia “is a warning for all Democrats,” according to Guy Cecil, chairman of Priorities USA.
AP Photo/Steve Helber

“We have to show we can govern,” Rep. Scott Peters (D-Calif.) told Politico. “The picture has been of Democrats sparring amongst ourselves. That’s probably not the best face to put out. I hope that there’s more of working toward agreement, like we had today, than openly sparring with each other.

“We have the ability and the responsibility to govern and I think that’s what we should focus on,” Peters added.

Youngkin, 54, followed a playbook that championed the rights of parents to have a say in their children’s education and vowed to ban the teaching of critical race theory, while also talking about fiscal management and appealing to Trump supporters at the same time he kept the former president at arm’s length. 

Supporters listen as Democratic gubernatorial candidate, former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe speaks at his election night rally on November 02, 2021 in McLean, Virginia.
Supporters listen as Democratic gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe speaks at his election night rally on Nov. 2, 2021, in McLean, Virginia.
Getty Images

He also benefited from Biden’s plunging poll numbers in the past couple of months as the administration struggled with his legislative agenda, global supply chain shortages that were a drag on the economy and the chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan in August. 

“Obviously, the president’s 42 percent approval rating is not helpful in a race like this,” Rep. Don Beyer, a Virginia Democrat, told Politico. “If it were 55 or 60 [percent], we’d be sailing.”

“The challenge is he’s laid out a very popular agenda with the American people that has not been fully approved yet,” Beyer said.

McAuliffe finally conceded the election to Youngkin Wednesday morning, but the contest between incumbent Democratic New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy and Republican Jack Ciattarelli was still too close to call. 

Virginia Republican gubernatorial nominee Glenn Youngkin
Glenn Youngkin championed the rights of parents to have a say in their children’s education.
REUTERS/ Jonathan Ernst

“It’s time to focus on what’s next. Congressional Democrats must immediately pass the infrastructure and Build Back Better bills. We must begin tomorrow to consolidate and mobilize those who turned out to vote Democratic in 2020,” Beyer continued. 

Biden, looking devastated, returned to the White House early Wednesday from a trip overseas to attend the G20 summit in Rome and a United Nations climate conference in Scotland. 

Speaking in Europe last week, the president said he didn’t think it would be “hyperbole” to link what happens in the Virginia and New Jersey elections to Democrats retaining majorities in the House and Senate and the future of his presidency. 

Democratic nominee for Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe is embraced by a supporter during his election night party and rally in McLean, Virginia, U.S., November 2, 2021.
McAuliffe conceded the election to Youngkin on Nov. 3, 2021.
REUTERS/Tom Brenner

A senior Democratic official working on the midterm elections told Politico: “It will get so much worse if we don’t pass the agenda and aren’t able to run on it.”

A Democratic strategist, speaking before the Virginia results were final, warned of the dire consequences if members of the party cannot get on the same page. 

“Democrats need to stop fighting each other and start delivering for voters. If we don’t, 2022 is going to be brutal,” the strategist said.

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