(Listen to this week’s episode of the Scrimshaw Show for more analysis.)
We’ll start at the end of this article and work backwards - my final Virginia Governor forecast is Terry McAuliffe by 6%, which is down slightly from the forecast I’ve been saying for weeks.
Now, let me get three things on the record here:
I am still very confident McAuliffe will win
A McAuliffe win of 3% or less is a bad result for me, and will be treated as such by me
A 6% Dem win would be good-but-not-great news for Republican prospects of winning the House
We’ll start with the seeming contradiction of lowering my projected margin without lowering my confidence in his victory - these two things aren’t perfectly correlated. I still don’t see a path for Youngkin to win more votes than McAuliffe, which is a separate and distinct question from whether he can get close (or even very close). I didn’t do formal race ratings for the 2020 Governor’s races, but I never thought Democrats could win in Missouri, despite the fact that for a time I thought it might be close.
Competitive and close are often used as synonyms, and they’re not, really. We see this in Florida, where I don’t think Ron DeSantis wins by more than, say, 5% at most, but I also don’t think there’s any path for a statewide Democrat to win the state. Not all margins are the same, and they shouldn’t be treated as such. My basic thesis is that while Youngkin could get it close, there’s a big difference between “Youngkin can get within 50k votes” and “Youngkin can win”, and I don’t think it’s going to be that close.
I expect Democrats to walk into Election Day with roughly a 350k banked vote margin, give or take 20k on either side. I know that Lak thinks that estimate is on the high side, but Nate Cohn thinks that Democrats are up 2/1 in the Early Vote right now, and his Georgia runoff early vote projections were very solid. (~33% margin on ~1.1M Early votes gets you that vote total, to be clear.) This could be wrong, but it’s a hell of a hill to climb on Election Day, especially given the GOP’s coalition is less reliable voters.
If the GOP are to win, it’ll be with masses of suburban reversion -differential turnout won’t get the GOP the votes they need, not by a long shot. They need to get a sizable number of Biden voters to vote for Youngkin, which the better GOP polls tend to have them doing. I don’t buy that it’s super likely, because I don’t think these voters are actually Republicans anymore. Why? C’mon now, say it with me y’all - it’s a Global Fucking Realignment, after all. The path for the GOP is through tightening the margins in Northern Virginia, and I just fundamentally don’t think they’ll do that to the degree they’d need to to win. And that, and that alone, is why TMac is the size of favourite he is, in my eyes.
Terry McAuliffe has run a disastrous campaign this year, straight up. The education quip at the debate was moronic, his campaign has been lifeless and pointless in a real way, and the energy has been around Youngkin. I’m not saying this to minimize the national impacts of a good GOP result - if this race is closer than D+5 the GOP are unequivocal House favourites. But it’s been a bad campaign from Virginia Democrats.
It’s also been a bad year politically for Joe Biden, who has somehow managed to do absolutely nothing to a languishing, and declining, approval rating for what is coming on 4 months, and it is a fucking disgrace. Biden and his allies bitch that the media is failing to educate the voters, when Biden hasn’t done a network interview in months. He is not commanding the bully pulpit, and in the absence of Presidential leadership, his party’s languishing. His hands off approach to the Presidency could be better for governance, and I’m higher on the policy legacy he will hand over, assuming the dual bills pass this year, but his political operation is a disaster, and in the absence of a compelling narrative around his administration or his accomplishments, the GOP have managed to make Virginia closer than it has any right being.
Even if McAuliffe somehow won by the 9% Ralph Northam won by in 2017, or the 10% Biden won by, I am increasingly pessimistic about Democratic chances in 2022, because this is not a party firing on all cylinders, or ready to win the next election.
McAuliffe losing would be a genuine stunner, and I don’t see a path by which that happens. That said, it’s highly likely he will win by a margin that bodes badly for Democratic fortunes moving forward. Final Prediction? TMac by 6%.