Glenn Youngkin’s victory in Virginia has given Republicans nationwide their first victory in what looks to be a favorable slate of upcoming elections.
No Republican had won a statewide election in Virginia since 2009. Youngkin accomplished this feat just a year after Trump lost the state by ten points. This surprising victory reveals a clear roadmap for Republicans to win in 2022.
Youngkin walked a fine line when it came to the issue of Trump. While his opponent, Terry McAuliffe, attempted to associate him with Trump every chance he got, Youngkin sought to distance himself from the former President without completely abandoning his party.
After all, Trump was rather unpopular in Virginia; Biden won the state handily with a double-digit margin. So, what made Youngkin more favorable than the presidential nominee of his own party?
The issue comes not from a distaste for Republicans, but a distaste for Trump specifically. This is why McAuliffe attempted to make Youngkin appear equivalent to Trump. It was widely understood that a Trump-like candidate could not win statewide in Virginia.
The group primarily credited with flipping Virginia for Youngkin comes from the suburbs. Many suburbanites who would ordinarily lean right, particularly women, voted against Trump in the 2020 election. In 2021, however, Youngkin carried a 46 percent share of the vote among suburbanites, comparable to the 37 percent who voted for Trump.
Youngkin’s popularity in the suburbs is widely credited to his focus on education during his campaign. Education has recently reemerged as a forefront issue. After school closures due to the pandemic, as well as increasing concerns over critical race theory and gender ideology being taught in schools, parents have a renewed interest in education issues.
Youngkin capitalized on this, stepping up as the candidate who wanted to keep schools open and ensure parents had a say at their local school board meetings. He also vowed to ban critical race theory, ensuring Virginia children are taught a fair representation of American history.
In tandem, Youngkin’s campaign focused on painting McAuliffe as a politician who stood against parental voices in education. Attack ads featuring quotes from McAuliffe such as “I don’t think parents should be telling schools what they should teach” were extremely effective in conveying their message: Youngkin is pro-parental rights, McAuliffe is not.
Before election night, pollsters were skeptical that Youngkin could generate the same support that Trump did in rural Virginia. Youngkin defied expectations and even outperformed Trump in many of these counties. In Lee County, Youngkin improved on Trump’s already impressive 84 percent margin by earning 87 percent of the vote. Youngkin carried almost every rural county west of Charlottesville by massive margins.
These suburban votes combined with remarkable Republican turnout in rural areas were not enough for the Democrats to overcome, even with wide margins in and around Charlottesville and Arlington.
Youngkin’s victory proves to the GOP that they don’t need Trump to win in rural parts of the country, they might even be better off without him. It also shows that focusing on issues that voters care about, such as education, is far more important than embracing Trump’s brand of conservatism.
Republicans celebrated Youngkin’s victory not only for flipping the governor’s mansion red but because it indicates a winning strategy for 2022. The GOP may have found its way out of the mess Trump has created for them, but it is now up to them to take the right path.
The views expressed in this article are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Lone Conservative staff.