Virginia governor’s race 2021 prediction: This could get ugly

This prediction is one of the easier ones…

Yesterday, former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe decisively won his state’s Democratic gubernatorial primary to set up a showdown with Glenn Youngkin, a Republican businessman endorsed by former President Donald Trump.

By law, Virginia governors can’t serve two consecutive 4-year terms so the state’s current governor, Democrat Ralph Northam, is barred from seeking re-election this year.

Because the 2021 Virginia governor’s race is considered a) a bellwether for where the country sits politically and b) an early indicator of what’ll lie in store for the midterm elections the following year, it will be watched closely by experts, pundits and candidates nationwide.

A case could be made that Virginia is a microcosm of the nation. For example, Whites comprise about 69 percent of the state’s population while non-Whites account for about 31 percent. And the United States, racially, is very close with its 67/33 (Whites/non-Whites) ratio.

And while there are no major urban areas in Virginia, the well-educated northern tip represents more than half of Washington DC’s sprawling suburbs and is home to 30 percent of the state’s citizens. Meanwhile, to the south, you’ll find pockets of moderately populated areas that are highly Black, such as Richmond City, Hampton, Newport News, and Norfolk County.

In addition, and of equal importance, the state isn’t short on rural communities. The vast majority of Virginia’s 95 counties are rural.

A left-leaning Purple state by some’s standards, Virginia actually transformed from Red to Blue, skipping over the Purple median. A Republican candidate, whether presidential, gubernatorial, or senatorial, hasn’t won a general, statewide election in the commonwealth since 2009 (Bob McDonnell defeated Creigh Deeds in the governor’s race, 58 to 41 percent).

… So yes, Youngkin has a formidable task ahead of him.

In the 2017 Virginia Gubernatorial Election, then Lieutenant Governor Ralph Northam comfortably defeated Republican foe Ed Gillespie – a well-known, well-liked moderate who served as the 61st Chair of the Republican National Committee from 2003 to 2005.

The election, won by Northam 54 to 45 percent, generated the highest voter turnout percentage in a Virginia gubernatorial election in twenty years with over 47% of the state’s constituency casting their ballot.

Given that a moderately-known Democrat defeated a well-known, well-respected Republican foe by 9 points in 2017, one could only surmise what’ll happen in 2021.

This time, the Democrat is a well-known former governor while his foe is an obscure businessman and virtual unknown in most Virginia circles.

This prediction is one of the easier ones…

Four years ago, experts correctly predicted Northam’s dominance in the Northern Virginia DC suburbs in 2017 was an ominous sign for then-President Trump who subsequentially underperformed in suburbia nationwide in the 2020 U.S. Presidential Race, losing the election as a result.

Since then-President George W. Bush carried the state in 2004:

  • A Republican candidate has won just one statewide race in Virginia
  • Barack Obama staged back-to-back wins in 2008 and 2012
  • Hillary Clinton defeated Trump there in 2016
  • Joe Biden won the commonwealth by double digits over Trump in 2020
  • Virginia’s 2 most recent governors have been Democrats, and
  • the commonwealth hasn’t elected a Republican to the U.S. Senate since 2002 (John Warner).

What will we see in 2021?

Virginia governor’s race 2021 prediction: McAuliffe wins by at least 8 percentage points, but it could be as high as 18.

Yougkin may get royally spanked… This could get ugly.

So, what does McAullife have in his favor?

  • He’s a Democrat running for governor in a Blue state
  • The GOP, sans its hardcore base, seems to have soured a bit in public appeal. And while that wouldn’t change things much in Mississippi, it’ll only make Youngkin’s task in Virginia more difficult.
  • Terry boasts a strong name recognition advantage
  • Experience – He’s a popular former governor and former chairman of the Democratic National Committee
  • His opponent has been endorsed by Donald Trump, not exactly a fan favorite in Virginia
  • There’s no indication thus far Youngkin will make it close, let alone win.

And that’s it.

If you’re a Democrat… a) Hope the Biden Administration doesn’t do anything egregiously negative and b) encourage other Democrats to vote.

Virginia is Blue, but an energized GOP could pose a threat to McAuliffe if left-leaners and anti-Trumpers get lazy.

We saw what happened when Democrats got apathetic in left-leaning Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin in the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election.

Secondly, given Northam, the current governor, won the 2017 election by 9 points, Democrats should hope McAuliffe wins in 2021 by a comparable or a greater margin. For instance, a five-point McAuliffe win would be too close for comfort and would be a sign of party attrition while a Youngkin upset could spell d-i-s-a-s-t-e-r in 2022.

If you’re a Republican… A competitive race where the winner, regardless of his party affiliation, is determined by no more than five percentage points would serve as a GOP victory of sorts because it would show softening in support for Democrats, whether within its progressive base or among independents or suburban moderates.

A Youngkin win, of course, whether due to Democratic voter apathy or something else, would cement Republicans as the strong favorite to win both chambers of the U.S. Congress in 2022. In fact, a Republican win, even via a nail bitter, would give the GOP significant momentum heading into next year and possibly 2024.

What’s your Virginia governor’s race 2021 prediction?

Tags: 2021 elections, 2021 Virginia Gubernatorial Election, Glenn Youngkin, Predictions, Terry McAuliffe