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October 30, 2021

Virginia Elections 2021 - Nobody Knows Nothing [Blaster]

Predicting is hard, especially about the future. This election is even harder, because all of the models are broken. Who is a likely voter? What do the new rules that don't require ID to vote mean? How does running against a guy who is not even in office anywhere or running anywhere work?

A little about me - if you know me you know that I am a cynic. And perhaps a tad pessimistic - I miss Monty's DOOM threads (Narrator: We are still BONED.) But I live in the deep blue heart of Northern Virginia, and have for 23 years (almost my whole 29 years!). I am not involved in politics or the government or a government contractor. I don't have any special insider knowledge. And, like the headline says, Nobody Knows Nothing. I will put what I think out there first - we will know fairly soon: the gubernatorial race will be close enough that it won't be called as soon as the polls close. Youngkin will be ahead early. But I think McAuliffe will win by a couple of points when it's all over. In the House of Delegates, the current 55D/45R split will not change - maybe 1 seat either way.

I consider the 2017 election in Virginia the last "honest" election in the Commonwealth. Gov Coonman McKlanhood (nee Northam) was elected over Ed Gillespie, and he won 54% - 45%. About 2.6M votes were cast in that election (190k early). Then there was 2020 - and there was lots of hinkiness. Trump was never going to win Virignia. The final there was 54%-44% Biden with some 4.3M votes cast, and roughly 2/3 of those were absentee. Virginia is like the opposite of Wisconsin - Trump lost at what he should have lost at - but a lot of "found" votes decided a couple of Congressional districts that flipped from R to D, most notoriously a USB stick that someone mislabeled and had 83000 votes for one candidate.

With these comps, there is really no way to model 2021. It is a COVID year, but not as COVID-y as last year. As of today (10/28) some 840k early votes have been cast - there are 3 more days of early voting. We won't know until it is over what turnout is going to actually be - we can be very confident that it will be less than 2020. But how will it compare to 2017? I would guess it won't be that far off - maybe as many as 3M votes. That means that a quarter of the votes have already been cast. All from a period in which McAuliffe is leading Youngkin in the polls.

What has made the news about Virginia, and has helped Youngkin, is the Loudoun County School Board and McAuliffe's fealty to the education establishment. In any other year, the lead on education for a Democrat promising money for schools and teachers is usally huge. In this year, McAuliffe's position specifically against parental involvement in education has hurt him - so he only leads Youngkin slightly on that topic. Recent polling (yes they all suck) shows that Virginia Democrats support the position of School Board supremacy over parents at 70%. And they outnumber Republicans. Independents oppose it at 50% but they only support it at 20something%.

Loudoun County is not just a DC suburb full of government workers and contractors. A lot of the people who live there are tech people, and they bring tech values with them. They have money, and either no kids or their kids are in private school. They are perfectly happy having the school board impose their radical agenda on YOUR kids. The normies there are making themselves heard, but they are still a minority.

As to the candidates, we all know Terry McAuliffe as "Hillary Clinton's bagman." He's not really a politician, he's a fundraiser. He had never held elective office before running for governor of Virginia. And he's not an incumbent because the Virginia Constitution does not allow a governor to succeed himself. You can't be re-elected, but you can get elected again. As a retail politician, he's not good because he hasn't had to be. He raises money. In 2013, he just barely eked out a win over Cuccinelli. Money certainly played a big part. There are lots of reasons for his win, but none of them were "McAuliffe was just an awesome candidate."

Glenn Youngkin is in his first campaign for elective office, too. He's a billionaire, and is committing his own money to the race. This no doubt plays a part in his current polling success. He was CEO of the Carlyle Group and for the most part is a Bushie. Trump endorsed him, but he hardly will speak Trump's name. It's a needle to thread in Virginia. He is not, at least, Never Trump. Before the parental involvement gaffe at a debate, Youngkin's big push was a middle class tax cut for Virginians. I mean, sure, we would all like lower taxes, but it seemed very cookie cutter GOPe from the mid-90s. In the comments I have said that Youngkin has been more lucky than good, and that since he can't flip heads every day until the election, I hope he has some good people working for him. The good news is that in his advertising and comms, he does have good people working for him. They are scoring points.

So, like I said, nobody knows nothing. I think McAuliffe will win narrowly, but I hope I know nothing. We shall see probably Wednesday morning. No matter the outcome, it is 100% certain that the results will be over-analyzed and overplayed. A McAuliffe victory will be played as the end of Trump and Trumpism. A Youngkin win will be seen as a rejection of Biden, and then the GOPe will nationally go to war with school boards.

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posted by Open Blogger at 07:30 PM

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