Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin thinks that he can help other blue state Republicans follow his lead by winning statewide races in the midterm elections later this year. Youngkin won a stunning upset victory in Virginia’s gubernatorial election last year, retaking what had been seen as an increasingly safe state for the Democrats. Many Republicans now see that victory as a template that has opened doors most of the party assumed had already been closed to them.
Youngkin expands his reach
Glenn Youngkin started his 2021 campaign as a somewhat generic business conservative of the sort that often challenges Democrats in blue states with little hope of victory.
He ended that campaign with a crushing victory that owed its existence to a spectacularly successful shift in tone which embraced the causes that disillusioned Virginians cared about.
He now hopes that other candidates will replicate his success, and to help them do so he has created two new political organizations meant to support gubernatorial candidates across the country.
What Youngkin discovered in 2021 is that voters who may not be especially attached to the Republican Party or Donald Trump can be won over if a candidate addresses the issues that concern them.
For Virginians this involved wading into the culture war battles that most business conservatives like Youngkin tend to stay far away from.
Listening to anger relating to anti-white material in schools proved to be a fantastic success, as Virginians were given a candidate who was willing to serve as vessel for their anger.
Republicans look to Virginia for inspiration
With dozens of important gubernatorial races taking place in November, intelligent Republicans will be working to emulate Youngkin in structuring their own campaigns.
Inspiring and funding a wave of successful imitators will be another massive boost for Youngkin’s political career and will further cement his place as a rising star in the Republican Party.
Candidates who want to adopt his approach will have to take significant risks by entering into the kind of cultural battles that decided the Virginia election.
Following Youngkin’s example will require that Republicans take up controversial causes that could jeopardize corporate donations and votes from socially liberal Republicans.
If it pays off as it did in Virginia then these will be acceptable losses. It is already clear that new tactics are needed if Republicans are going to win statewide races in typically blue states, as the old approaches aren’t working.
Candidates running this year will undoubtedly be looking to Virginia when planning their strategies for the general election, but victory will depend on learning the right lessons from that race and applying them effectively.