There have been no new public polls of Virginia since Trafalgar’s last week but I think the Twitter consensus about this new ad has to be right. McAuliffe’s private polling must have turned up some grim numbers on how his comments during the campaign about schooling have been received by voters. There’s no other explanation for why he’d play defense this way, amplifying his opponent’s criticism of him in an ad, unless he thought he needed to do damage control urgently.
The weird part is that it was predictable that being imperious about education at a cultural moment like this might come back to haunt him. Right-leaning parents with kids in public school were outraged at the months of closures last year during the pandemic, disgruntled about student mask mandates which they deem unnecessary, and suspicious of indoctrination due to the attention paid to Critical Race Theory this past summer. That called for a little “I feel your pain” empathy from the Democrat a la McAuliffe’s old friend Bill. Instead he chose to rush headlong into the culture war, maybe because he thought he’d never have to retreat in a Biden +10 state.
Remember this moment at the Virginia gubernatorial debate three weeks ago?
Glenn Youngkin: "I believe parents should be in charge of their kids' education."
— Glenn Youngkin (@GlennYoungkin) September 29, 2021
Remember McAuliffe scoffing not long after that worrying about “anti-racist” dogma creeping into class is racist? It’s baffling that this guy could have looked at the upset on display at school board meetings across the country and the media coverage of school policy as a galvanizing issue in his own race and decided that hand-waving away parents’ concerns was the way to go.
Especially knowing how heavily Democrats now depend on support from well-educated suburbanites.
McAuliffe’s finally throwing in the towel on this issue in his new ad. He cares about what’s happening in schools. A lot! Don’t let that Republican tell you otherwise.
— Brandon Jarvis (@Jaaavis) October 18, 2021
I wonder what convinced him to shift into reverse gear. Like I say, there must be some polling. But maybe the uproar over the cover-up of sexual assault in Loudoun County schools also has McAuliffe jittery. Put that together with school COVID policy and CRT and you have a broad narrative about Virginia schools abusing their children in a multitude of ways. McAuliffe’s cavalier attitude that the state’s education system is doing just fine and parents should stay out of it looks dangerously callous in that environment. Time to rethink.
As for his claim that his prior comments about schools were out of context, Youngkin was ready for him:
Terry McAuliffe is now claiming he's being taken "out of context" — can you believe this guy?
Here are 7 times he confirmed he thinks parents should have no say in their child's education. It's on tape! pic.twitter.com/gTPXGYkPfZ
— Glenn Youngkin (@GlennYoungkin) October 19, 2021
He was ready for McAuliffe on CRT too:
Asked Youngkin abt his reax to McAuliffe calling critical race theory a “racist dog whistle”:
“I’m not going to be lectured by a guy on race who literally called for Gov. Northam’s resignation for blackface & then turned around and accepted his endorsement & campaigns with him”
— Josh Kraushaar (@HotlineJosh) October 18, 2021
Youngkin: “So Terry McAuliffe can go down and sit in front of the mirror and ask himself why he called for Ralph Northam’s resignation when he was accused of blackface and then turning around and giving him a big hug and saying you’re on my team.”
— Josh Kraushaar (@HotlineJosh) October 18, 2021
Big picture, it’s bad for McAuliffe to be talking about anything right now except Trump. His strategy to motivate apathetic Democrats is to convince them that Youngkin is Trump’s mini-me and that Republican victory in Virginia will further entrench the GOP as the party of MAGA. (That strategy is working on some Democrats.) If the race becomes a conversation about schools or CRT or anything else down the stretch, it lets Youngkin play offense and invites voters to ask themselves why they should return a former governor to office who didn’t fix the state’s problems, starting with education, during his first go-round.
Which is also why Youngkin doesn’t want Trump coming there to campaign for him. MAGA voters will turn out anyway to send a message to Biden. Trump showing up would motivate more lefties than righties and hand McAuliffe a gift-wrapped excuse to steer the conversation back to his favorite subject.
— Zachary Petrizzo (@ZTPetrizzo) October 18, 2021
Read the always interesting David Byler on how to handicap Virginia’s race down the stretch. McAuliffe has the fundamentals on his side — a blue electorate with lots of college grads, many government workers, and a large African-American minority. Polarization is working for him too by giving the Democratic majority there a reason to vote, which is why every third word out of his mouth is “Trump.” But Youngkin has timing on his side as Americans’ disenchantment with Biden deepens. No matter who wins, it seems a cinch that Dems won’t get anywhere near Biden’s 10-point margin of victory in Virginia last fall. Which means we’re headed for a liberal freakout about the midterms the day after the election no matter what.