Virginia Republicans did some extraordinary things in their nominating convention last weekend — they took the first, tentative steps out of the political wilderness, exorcised a few local political ghosts and made the November general election a genuine toss-up.

And yes, it is all but guaranteed that when Democrats go to the polls in June, they will nominate Terry McAuliffe for a second term as governor. Forget making history with a Black woman leading the ticket. Forget refreshing the talent bench for future contests.

In nominating former Carlyle Group co-chief executive Glenn Youngkin, the GOP is putting what is essentially a blank-slate candidate with exceedingly deep pockets up against a political lifer who still has not answered that most fundamental of questions: Why should he get a second term?

Are Democrats worried? Of course they are. It’s a rational response to a candidate who may spend $75 million of his own money on the general election contest — and who will spread some of that cash around on Republican candidates for the House of Delegates.

Money is not the only factor. Organization matters. On that score, McAuliffe has the clear advantage — for now.

But it’s foolish to underestimate the skill Youngkin’s team displayed in nabbing the GOP nomination. Conventions may be sketchy insider affairs, but they are profound tests of organizational and bureaucratic skills. That Youngkin navigated it successfully — never trailing in any round of the ranked-choice voting — shows he’s a very quick study.

The question now is whether he can quickly translate the purpose-built convention apparatus into a smooth running — even McAuliffe-like — statewide machine.

If he can, and there’s no reason in the short term to think he can’t, Youngkin will give McAuliffe a stronger challenge than Ken Cuccinelli II did in 2013.

Speaking of Cuccinelli: Virginia Republicans also appear to have exorcised a few local political ghosts. Cuccinelli, their 2013 standard-bearer, was all-in for fellow 2013 candidate Pete Snyder. The ex-lieutenant governor candidate, who lost that year’s nomination in a convention to E.W. Jackson, made it to the final round of voting against Youngkin. But Snyder’s weird Trumpish shtick, combined with suspicions he was gaming the convention, went nowhere. Is he finished as a statewide candidate? Two convention losses say so.

As for Cuccinelli and the other specters of failed GOP candidacies past (E.W. Jackson, Mark Obenshain and Oliver North), the GOP base has moved beyond you. So long.

There were other exorcisms, too: The last vestiges of the George Allen GOP that stormed the commonwealth in 1993 lined up behind former House speaker Kirk Cox (Colonial Heights). It was a formidable array of names, from Allen and Robert F. McDonnell to former speaker Bill Howell and former U.S. Rep. Tom Davis.

The Cox campaign exited the affair early, bringing an end not just to his three decades in office, but also drawing the curtain on the Allen-era GOP. Goodbye to all that.

But former president Donald Trump’s shadow still hangs over the party. Youngkin may not have mentioned Trump’s after-the-fact endorsement at his Richmond rally, but he produced a Trump-loving ad. Virginia’s recent electoral history demonstrates the ex-president is anathema to the suburban voters Youngkin needs to win in November.

Trump’s pull on the Virginia GOP remains powerful. Youngkin will, rightly, be asked about the legitimacy of the 2020 presidential results. So far, he’s played to the tinfoil hat crowd on that one.

He needs to come to grips with reality. If not, Democrats will use that and more to bind Youngkin to Trump’s Virginia-losing mast. The McAuliffe campaign has wasted no time in doing so.

And if Trump’s shadow sinks Youngkin, then the GOP’s first steps out of the wilderness will have been straight into a wasteland.

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