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The Early 202

An essential morning newsletter briefing for leaders in the nation’s capital.

Youngkin's win could give GOP winning blueprint for 2022

The Early 202

An essential morning newsletter briefing for leaders in the nation’s capital.

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Good morning! It's Wednesday and the morning after Election Day. Tips, comments, pick-me-ups? We had a very long night: earlytips@washpost.com.

The campaign

Youngkin's victory could give GOP winning blueprint for 2022

Democrats had an inarguably bad night on Tuesday, with Republican Glenn Youngkin projected to clinch victory in competitive Virginia and Republican Jack Ciattarelli mounting an unexpectedly strong challenge to Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy in much bluer New Jersey. Republicans also swept the two other statewide races in Virginia, leading in the contests for lieutenant governor and attorney general.

The results have already set off alarm bells in Washington and in the halls of Congress, where Democrats hold a three-vote House majority and are evenly matched with Republicans in the Senate. With President Biden's approval rating at historic lows, the blame game has begun, with a focus on Democrats' failure to pass a bipartisan infrastructure bill and a massive social spending package despite the party's total if fragile control of Washington.

“My fellow Virginians, we stand here at a defining moment,” Youngkin told an excited crowd shortly after 1 a.m. this morning. “Together, we will change the trajectory of this commonwealth.”

He turned immediately to education, which proved to be a potent issue for him, taking a swipe at a gaffe by his Democratic opponent, former Gov. Terry McAuliffe: “Friends, we're going to embrace our parents, not ignore them … We're going to reestablish excellence in our schools.”

Then there is the Trump factor. One clear takeaway is McAuliffe's decision to rope Youngkin to former president Donald Trump, who stayed at arm's length from his party's nominee, was insufficient to push him over the finish line. 

While a narrow majority of Virginia voters hold an unfavorable opinion of Trump, 17 percent of those voters cast their ballots for Youngkin, according to exit polling. Exit polls also indicate that McAuliffe fared particularly poorly with White women who don’t hold four-year college diplomas, who made up 19 percent of the electorate. Trump won 56 percent of those women’s voters last year; Youngkin won 75 percent.

Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel credited Trump with helping to propel Youngkin to victory (despite the fact the ex-president never campaigned for Youngkin). “President Trump continues to be a huge boost for Republicans across the country,” she tweeted.

But the reality is much more complicated, our colleagues Michael Scherer and Josh Dawsey reported as it became clear Youngkin would win. 

“Trump, who is known for his public demands of fealty, allowed Youngkin to cast himself as his own man, declining to invite Trump to campaign with him and deflecting questions about his support for Trump’s more polarizing views in an effort to make inroads in the well-heeled Northern Virginia suburbs. The former president instead stayed focused on turning out his own supporters — deploying his email and text message lists to coax his voters to the polls while refusing to acknowledge any daylight between Youngkin and himself.”

Revenge of the suburbs?

One warning sign for Democrats whose majority is at stake in 2022 may be the movement of some suburban voters back to Republicans after fleeing Trump in 2020 and handing Democrats the House majority in 2018. According to Post data, McAuliffe led suburban counties in Virginia by 12,186 votes, a significant shrink in margins from suburbs and exurbs that Joe Biden had carried handily just a year before.

“Suburban moms who have left the Republican Party in big numbers came back,” Bob McDonnell, the last Republican governor of Virginia, told The Early Tuesday night.

‘A warning for all Democrats’

While Republicans cheered Youngkin’s relative success in the suburbs, he appears to have done even better elsewhere in the state, leading by 210,204 votes in rural areas.

Virginia and New Jersey are both battlegrounds in the fight for control of the House next year.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee included Reps. Elaine Luria and Abigail Spanberger of Virginia and Reps. Andy Kim, Mikie Sherrill and Tom Malinowski of New Jersey on its list of the most vulnerable House Democrats. (The outcome of those race will hinge in large part on redistricting in both states, which is still incomplete.)

“This election is a warning for all Democrats," Guy Cecil, the chairman of the Democratic outside group Priorities USA, said in a statement. “While DC Democrats spent weeks fighting each other, Republicans were focused on mobilizing their base and peeling away voters from the Biden coalition using deceptive, divisive tactics.”

The issues

It wasn't just Youngkin’s successful distancing from Trump that Republicans may seek to imitate heading into the midterms. His suburban strategy and approach to parental — and racial — grievance is likely to also serve as a blueprint.

The economy and jobs ranked as the most important issue to voters, but education ranked second, per exit polls.

Youngkin’s final pitch to voters included an online ad featuring a Fairfax mom who wanted to prevent her son from having to read Toni Morrison’s “Beloved” (though the book isn't named in the ad) and repeated calls to ban the teach of critical race theory — “an academic concept about systemic racism that is not actually part of the state’s K-12 curriculum,” our Gregory Schneider and Laura Vozzella report.

The Republican Governors Association credited Youngkin’s win to college-educated men “coming back home” after being turned off by Trump in addition to suburban women. Biden’s image dropped 24 points with independent voters in the group’s final internal survey.

“Every Democrat on the ballot in 2022 should be petrified right now,” one RGA official said, speaking on condition of anonymity. “A weak and ineffective president has put deep blue states in play and Republicans are well positioned to capitalize.”

Laurel Wise, 48, a Henrico County resident and former college administrator, told our colleague Paul Schwartzman “that Youngkin became more palatable to her by signaling he did not want to appear alongside Trump.”

“Believe me, if there had been any association, I’d be pulling the blue lever today,” she said.

The Media

More election day reactions

Virginia:

From the Richmond Times-Dispatch’s Jeff E. Schapiro: 

From our David Weigel: 

From the New York Times's Nate Cohn: 

New Jersey: 

From NorthJersey.com's Dustin Racioppi: 

From Cook Political Report's Dave Wasserman:

From Inside Elections's Jacob Rubashkin: 

🗳️More election results:

  • Congressional races
    • Ohio: Democrat Shontel Brown won the special election for Ohio’s 11th Congressional District, while Republican Mike Carey won Ohio’s 15th, our colleague David Weigel reports.
    • Florida: “The Democratic primary to replace longtime Rep. Alcee Hastings was too close to call on Tuesday evening, with Broward County Commissioner Dale V.C. Holness and healthcare executive Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick headed to a potential recount,” the Miami Herald’s Alex Daugherty reports.
  • Ohio: Democrat Shontel Brown won the special election for Ohio’s 11th Congressional District, while Republican Mike Carey won Ohio’s 15th, our colleague David Weigel reports.
  • Florida: “The Democratic primary to replace longtime Rep. Alcee Hastings was too close to call on Tuesday evening, with Broward County Commissioner Dale V.C. Holness and healthcare executive Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick headed to a potential recount,” the Miami Herald’s Alex Daugherty reports.

 

On the Hill

Immigration and SALT repeal the new flashpoints in reconciliation bill debate

A cluster pluck: Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) now thinks it could be weeks before Democrats reach a deal that will ultimately garner his support for their $1.75 trillion social sending package. It's unclear if Youngkin's win last night will light a fire under Democrats to try and speed things up.

Manchin thinks Thanksgiving is a possible deadline, “if everyone works real hard,” and granted Democrats remedy some of his concerns. He told CNN's Manu Raj  that to secure his vote, climate change, taxes, Medicare and immigration all must be addressed. 

Some progress was made, though: Democrats said they “had clinched a deal on a plan that aims to lower prescription drug prices for millions of American seniors,” our Tony Romm, Marianna Sotomayor and Rachel Roubein report. 

After prescription drug pricing, immigration remains the biggest outstanding issue for Democrats. While liberals have made the push to for $100 billion for immigration in reonciliation bill, Raju reports they now face the uphill battle of getting Manchin to support “a revised immigration proposal that narrows the provision," according to Democratic sources. 

“…immigration advocates view the bill as the best chance to do something to show immigrant communities aligned with the party that their concerns are being taken seriously, and they argue the issue cannot be kicked down the road once again despite the polarizing nature of the debate,” our colleagues Marianna Sotomayor and Maria Sacchetti report. “It would also keep a campaign promise made by Biden to protect undocumented immigrants and their families after years of attacks under" Trump.

Major hurdles still remain. Manchin has remained opposed to the proposed expansion of Medicare since it “has a trust fund that is insolvent,” he told CNN. While Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) insists Medicare expansion is one of his biggest priorities. 

Another issue? SALT. “For months, a cadre of party lawmakers — many hailing from states including New York and California — have sought in the context of the $1.75 trillion package to lift a cap on a key tax reduction that chiefly benefits Americans in higher-cost areas. Absent a fix to the policy, known as SALT, some lawmakers even had threatened to vote against the entire bill,” per Tony, Marianna, and Rachel. 

By the end of the day, Democrat aides told our colleagues they had resolved the issue and been able to reinstate the full SALT reduction for the next five years. Sanders, however, blasted the deal as “beyond unacceptable.” (And Larry Summers, one of former president Obama's top economic advisers, seems to agree). 

Thanks for reading. You can also follow us on Twitter: @theodoricmeyer and @jaxalemany.

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