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Opinion Count on Democrats to ignore the lessons of a Youngkin win

Virginia Republican gubernatorial candidate Glenn Youngkin supporters in Manassas, Va., on Oct. 30. (Will Oliver/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock)

­­­­­­It will surprise no one that I think Glenn Youngkin (R) is going to win Tuesday’s vote in the Virginia governor’s race. Former governor Terry McAuliffe (D) spent Sunday morning on “Meet the Press,” which was an appeal for help to Beltway suburbs where the Sunday shows matter far more than they do in Virginia Beach, Richmond and Lynchburg, much less rural Virginia.

While Youngkin was barnstorming to crowds of 1,000 people, McAuliffe made his pitch to “sparsely attended” rallies, according to the New York Times. I expect Youngkin to emerge as the winner early on Tuesday evening.

The question then becomes: What do congressional Democrats do in response? President Biden is fixated on spending massive amounts of federal money despite his plunging favorability ratings. Will Democrats in Congress study a Youngkin win and conclude, “Um, let’s change course”?

My guess is no. And we have some evidence for that conclusion from early 2010.

Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) died on Aug. 25, 2009. Democrats, with majorities in both House and Senate, pushed forward with Obamacare, despite losing their 60th vote in the Senate, because they counted on a special election in Massachusetts to regain their supermajority in the Senate.

“Obamacare” wasn’t popular then. Just the opposite. But Democrats persisted, and their continued push for the massive overhaul of America’s health-care system helped power Republican Scott Brown’s January 2010 defeat of Martha Coakley in the special election by a margin of almost 5 percentage points in Massachusetts. Bay State voters — a deep blue group — sent a message to Democrats: “Stop!”

Democrats did pause — for a while. But then they pushed the massive measure through in March. Less than eight months later, Democrats lost 63 House seats.

A blowout in 2022 is again on the horizon if Democrats insist on hosing the country down with spending. It’s one thing to advance an agenda many economists and most independent voters think is unwise; Democrats will be stuck on stupid if they press ahead after a Youngkin win.

And Virginia may not be the only referendum on the greater Biden agenda: New Jersey Republican Jack Ciattarelli is closing on Democratic governor Phil Murphy, sharing in the surge that is powering Youngkin, though Ciattarelli has more ground to make up in a much bluer state. Still, watch that margin, too, Tuesday night.

Then eyes on Capitol Hill, where I expect House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) to make an appearance, and deliver a We-Will-Press-On speech Wednesday, just as she did in 2010. Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) will follow in the footsteps of his predecessor Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) and pay no attention to the voters behind the curtains in Virginia and New Jersey. Pelosi and Schumer will drive through another $2 trillion in spending and the politically frail Biden will sign it.

And the die will be cast for November. Incredibly, House moderates think infrastructure spending will save them from a red wave built on the hidden tax of inflation and a parental uprising against absurd mask mandates for primary grade students and the prospect of teaching critical race theory in schools.

If Youngkin wins, every Republican in the country will study his playbook. If McAuliffe loses, Democrats will avert their eyes and cover their ears. Just as they did in 2010, to the ruin of their fleeting majorities in both chambers.