In electoral vocabulary, Democrats have a choice. Disillusionment, rout, slap? Each term is defended in view of the results in Virginia, Tuesday, November 2, where the post of governor was being played. In this state near Washington, the federal capital, where Joe Biden had won by ten points in the 2020 presidential election, Republican Glenn Youngkin beat Democrat Terry McAuliffe, former governor. The millionaire newcomer defeated the veteran (50.9% against 48.4% after 98% of the votes stripped) by imposing his themes, in civilized language, while joining the cultural war initiated by the conservative right.
This election was a crucial test for both parties, a year before the midterm elections. Republican land for nearly half a century, Virginia swung into the Democratic camp in 2008. But voters have also become accustomed to sanctioning the ruling party in Washington, choosing a governor from the opposite camp, as in 2009, a year after the election of Barack Obama. The polls heralded a very close ballot. Glenn Youngkin’s clear success is sending shock waves through the Democratic Party, referred to its divisions. It also revives the debate, on the Republican side, on the interest of betting exclusively on Donald Trump to take over both chambers in Congress, then the White House in 2024.
Three observations stand out: the lack of appeal of the Democratic candidate, a former apparatchik of the party associated with the Clinton era; the flair of the winner, who knew how to keep his distance from Donald Trump; and, finally, the demobilization of part of the electorate who had voted Biden in 2020, disappointed by the poor results of the administration. Glenn Youngkin has succeeded in building real momentum, dramatically narrowing the gap with Democrats on the outskirts of major cities – such as around Richmond – while increasing the Grand Old Party’s considerable margin in rural counties. The Republican was betting on a blue demobilization, his calculation proved to be correct. With Trump’s pushback having disappeared, the female electorate and minorities did not line up as massively behind the Democrat as in 2020, in the presidential election.
Crumbling popularity of the president
Terry McAuliffe and Glenn Youngkin have multiplied in the home stretch: towns and countryside, meetings and interviews, barbecues and snacks, stadiums and halls. But behind this twinning of form and the carnivorous smiles, crossed paths were emerging. The Democratic candidate failed to garner membership. He was content to brandish his record as governor, between 2014 and 2018. But the embellished past is not a program, while a powerful disappointment has settled in the Democratic ranks, more than eight months after the Joe Biden’s entry into the White House. High inflation, the catastrophic withdrawal from Afghanistan, the images of thousands of Haitian migrants on the Mexican border: all this explains the crumbling of the president’s popularity in the polls, supported by only 44% of Americans. In the middle of the night, when Glenn Youngkin, euphoric, improvised a few dance steps on stage, tasting his victory, Joe Biden descended the steps of his plane, after his tour in Europe. Hard return to internal affairs.
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Democrats’ defeat in Virginia a major electoral setback for Joe Biden