Holy cow: Youngkin 53, McAuliffe 45 in new Fox News poll

AP Photo/Patrick Semansky

If this bears out on Tuesday, it’ll turn American politics upside down. And maybe not just on the Democratic side.

Fox’s last poll taken two weeks ago had McAuliffe up five, 51/46. Today they have Youngkin up eight. W-w-what?

In a Biden +10 state?

I don’t know if it’s a crazy outlier or if Fox is picking up on a late break among undecideds but good for them for publishing this data. Some pollsters would be tempted to “herd” with the rest of the field that’s seeing a nailbiter. Fox is going with the numbers it has even though it’s way out on a limb:

McAuliffe receives 45 percent to Youngkin’s 53 percent in a new Fox News survey of Virginia likely voters. Youngkin’s eight-point advantage is outside the poll’s margin of sampling error…

What changed? GOP enthusiasm. The race is largely focused on education and this has energized Republicans, as 79 percent of Youngkin supporters are “extremely” interested in the election compared to 69 percent of McAuliffe supporters.

The survey, released Thursday, finds movement in the views of parents. They backed McAuliffe by 10 points two weeks ago. Now, they go for Youngkin by 14. On the question of which candidate they trust to handle education, Youngkin’s previous 1-point edge among parents has widened to 12.

Among all likely voters, trust on education moved from McAuliffe by two points to Youngkin by eight.

Just an astounding shift on a key issue in a short period, assuming Fox’s numbers are accurate. I wonder if in hindsight we won’t look back and say that McAuliffe lost the election when he said at that debate last month that parents shouldn’t be telling schools what to teach. That teed up Youngkin for a month of ads about McAuliffe wanting to disempower parents’ authority over their children’s education, apparently to devastating effect.

But it’s not just education. Interestingly, Fox also sees Youngkin leading on various other key issues, from crime to the economy to even COVID. Essentially Fox’s pollster is betting the farm on GOP turnout overwhelming Dems on Tuesday: Their sample in this poll is 46R/42D/12I whereas last November the Virginia exit poll had it 36D/34R/30I, with independents breaking for Biden by 19 points.

In Fox’s poll, it’s Youngkin who leads among indies — by 22 points. We knew Biden had poisoned the well for Dems with independents but if this data is accurate we had no idea how bad it was.

This isn’t the only survey today to show Youngkin ahead. A Republican internal poll has him up 47/43 over McAuliffe. There’s been every indication over the last 10 days that late deciders are breaking Republican. If that continues and Youngkin not only wins Virginia but wins comfortably, congressional Dems will resign themselves to the fact that their majorities are gone next year, triggering some predictable and some less predictable consequences. The most predictable is that the pace of retirements will accelerate. Less predictable is how House Dems in swing districts will react. If they know they’re going to be ousted in the midterms, do they decide to go big and pass reconciliation in the belief that they might as well get something out of their remaining time? Or do they retrench and walk away from spending, desperately hoping that swing voters will reward them?

And what about the GOP? A big Youngkin win will guarantee that they spend the next 12 months campaigning on parents’ power over schools full-spectrum, opposing CRT, mask mandates, explicit material in curriculums, and so on. But Youngkin conquering a blue stronghold may also lead Republican voters to consider him a model of “post-Trump Republicanism,” the sort of candidate the party should be looking for — Trump-friendly but not Trumpy himself. Willing to flirt with MAGA but ultimately married to suburban voters.

Where does that point in 2024? More towards Ron DeSantis than to Donald Trump, no? On the other hand, Youngkin winning easily would also demonstrate that Dems screaming “Trump!” at their Republican opponents isn’t a winner even in a solid blue state. MAGA will take from that the lesson that Trump isn’t as much of a liability to the party as his detractors claim.

Although Glenn Youngkin apparently thinks he is. Watch this clip of the poor guy from this morning and see how eager he was to knock down rumors that Trump is planning to swoop into his state before Election Day, which would play right into Terry McAuliffe’s hands.

Virginia, Virginia, Virginia: That’s Youngkin’s mantra. It’s a campaign by Virginians, with Virginians, for Virginians. Don’t bother him with questions about rallies by non-Virginians who absolutely aren’t going to be anywhere near Virginia if Glenn Youngkin has anything to do with it.

But what if there’s nothing Youngkin can do to stop certain non-Virginians from rallying for him? What if a certain non-Virginian has an ego so fragile that he can’t bear the thought of watching Youngkin win a race without needing help from that non-Virginian?

It turns out that Trump’s going to compromise with him. He’s not holding a rally in Virginia in person next week but he’s still going to give McAuliffe the headline he wants by inserting himself into the race in the final days.

Donald Trump plans to hold a tele-rally for Glenn Youngkin on Monday night, a day before the Virginia gubernatorial election and as Democrats, including President Joe Biden, seek to goad the former president into campaigning for the Republican candidate.

Youngkin has tight-roped between embracing the former president, while also keeping him at a distance. Trump on Wednesday teased the possibility that he would campaign in Virginia before the election but will do the tele-rally, typically a call with supporters to generate support for the candidate, according to a person familiar with his plans.

Youngkin has accepted Trump’s multiple endorsements of him and speaks well of him in conservative areas of the state, but in swing or liberal parts of Virginia, Youngkin says he’s running his own campaign and avoids comparisons to the former president

“He won’t allow Donald Trump to campaign for him in this state. And he’s willing to pledge his loyalty to Trump in private, why not in public? What’s he trying to hide? Is there a problem with Trump being here? Is he embarrassed?” Biden said at the Tuesday rally.

So that explains why McAuliffe was willing to have Biden campaign for him this week despite Sleepy Joe’s 43 percent approval rating. It wasn’t just a matter of Biden being a bit more popular in a blue state like Virginia than he is nationally. It was probably a calculation that Trump, seeing McAuliffe welcome the leader of his party to the state, would be annoyed that Youngkin wasn’t as welcoming to him. Biden can’t be more of a political asset than I am, Trump probably thought. Et voila: A tele-rally is on for Monday. Doubtless he wanted to do a live rally but had enough advisors screaming at him to forget it that he acceded to a virtual presence only.

McAuliffe is pleased either way:

As for Trump, the half-in half-out nature of a tele-rally suits him in this case. He wants some sort of appearance in Virginia so that he can take partial credit for a Youngkin win but not so much of one that it’ll deny him the chance to play Monday morning quarterback if Youngkin loses. (“He should have embraced me more!”)

I’ll leave you with this. There’ll be whining next week for sure about phantom voter fraud in Virginia. And not just if it’s the Democrat who wins.