Polls close at 7 p.m. ET: Nothing too interesting on the line, just the entire future of American politics.
I’m barely exaggerating. Any outcome apart from an exceedingly unlikely rout by McAuliffe will send a shiver down the spines of Democrats in Washington. An outright Youngkin victory, particularly a comfortable victory, might be enough to sink Biden’s Build Back Better agenda and will leave everyone from AOC to Marjorie Taylor Greene convinced that the House is turning red next fall.
No matter what happens, though, tomorrow’s spin by all factions is already simmering on the stove and waiting to be served.
From progressives: Unless McAuliffe wins easily, which he won’t, they’ll claim that his defeat or narrow victory is evidence that lefty voters are demoralized and will remain so until congressional Dems go big on spending.
From centrist Dems: Unless McAuliffe wins easily, which he won’t, they’ll treat his defeat or narrow victory as evidence that the electorate is moving right and wants Dems to focus on inflation instead of new spending. The worse McAuliffe, does, the more emphatic that message will be.
From establishment Republicans: Unless McAuliffe wins easily, which he won’t, they’ll cite Youngkin’s victory or narrow defeat as proof that the electorate wants a post-Trump politician, the sort of guy who’s MAGA-friendly but fundamentally a business-class Republican in the Romney mold who’ll put suburban voters at ease.
From MAGA Republicans: They’ll say that Youngkin was cheated if he loses or that McAuliffe’s constant refrain that “Youngkin = Trump” proves that Trump isn’t as much of a liability even in blue states as his critics claim.
From Trump: If Youngkin loses it’s because he was cheated but also because he wasn’t Trumpy enough. If Youngkin wins it’s because he was acceptably Trump. He’ll try to have it both ways, as usual, as 70 percent of the country rolls its eyes.
Another enjoyable subplot tomorrow if McAuliffe loses will be watching progressives and centrist Dems blame each other for not passing the infrastructure package in time to help him:
“I’ve watched all the attack ads on Terry McAuliffe and not a single one has talked about the [infrastructure bill] not passing. They’ve all been about other things,” Congressional Progressive Caucus Chair Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) told reporters, echoing a sentiment repeated by most other House progressives on Monday…
But several Democrats from other corners of the caucus privately expressed their fury toward progressives Monday night after POLITICO reported Jayapal helped derail their leadership’s infrastructure vote strategy last week. What many hoped would be an opportunity to change the narrative going into the weekend instead resulted in a cascade of coverage about how Democrats can’t agree…
“I thought it was a missed opportunity,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi told Democrats in a private meeting Monday night. “I thought we looked terrible, and we need to make good on this.”
They could have passed the bipartisan infrastructure bill a month ago if House lefties had accepted the hard reality that they have no leverage over the final package vis-a-vis Joe Manchin, who doesn’t much care about the reconciliation bill and has a de facto veto over it. Instead they screwed around for weeks because, and tell me if this sounds familiar, their base insisted that they fight, fight, fight even though they couldn’t win and would do more harm to the party than good by fighting.
Now McAuliffe’s hanging by a thread, with nothing to show to his voters to get them excited.
The good news about tonight’s results is that we *might* know who won before bedtime. Virginia counts its ballots the same way Florida does, pre-processing the absentee votes before polls close on Election Day so that all of those ballots are tabulated quickly. That means once the same-day vote is counted later this evening, nearly every ballot will be in. So long as the race isn’t exceptionally close, we’ll know who won. If it is exceptionally close, which is a real possibility given the polling lately, then it could drag out. Quote: “In Virginia, mail-in ballots postmarked by Election Day that arrive by noon the following Friday (Nov. 5) are eligible to be counted. In the 2020 presidential election, nearly 11,000 eligible ballots arrived in that window.”
The fact that absentee ballots are counted early also means, again a la Florida, that we should expect a big McAuliffe lead in the first hour or so tonight. That’s the so-called “blue mirage” at work, a misleading impression that the Democrat is doing extremely well when in reality it’s just an artifact of Dem-heavy mail ballots being counted first. (The “red mirage” is when same-day votes, which typically favor Republicans, are counted first and then Dem-friendly mail ballots are counted later. That’s what happened in Pennsylvania last year between Trump and Biden.) Once the same-day votes start getting counted, Youngkin will begin to surge. So don’t panic when McAuliffe is ahead by 15 points at 8 p.m.
The best way to get a sense of how Youngkin’s doing is simply to compare his share county-by-county to how Trump did in 2020 and how Ed Gillespie did against Ralph Northam in 2017. Here’s the county map of Virginia from last year’s race:
CNN’s election pages from 2017 and 2020 have results from each of Virginia’s counties, making it easy to set benchmarks this evening. The GOP will be closely watching the blue D.C. suburbs in the northeastern corner of the state (Loudoun, Fairfax, Arlington, Alexandria, Prince William) and the lightish blue southeastern coastal counties (Virginia Beach, Norfolk, Suffolk, Chesapeake, Portsmouth). If Youngkin really has made up ground with suburbanites after those voters moved left during the Trump era, those are the counties that’ll tell us. But they’re not enough by themselves: Because Virginia is so solidly Democratic now, Youngkin will also have to run up the score in rural red counties won by Trump and Gillespie to prevail.
Those two candidates lost to Democrats by 9-10 points. That’s how much better Youngkin will have to be in each county on average across the board tonight to win. And although he’s leading in the polls, that’s harder than you may think:
Give Youngkin the best of the Trump and Romney coalitions:
In every county, he gets Trump's 2020 margin or Romney's 2012 margin — whichever is better for him
And every county casts about the same % of the statewide vote as in 2020
—> VA is virtually tied
— David Byler (@databyler) November 2, 2021
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