In a mid-October survey from The Washington Post/Schar School, just 43 percent of registered voters approved of the job Biden was doing and 55 percent disapproved.
That was well below his vote share in the state — and made him significantly less popular than Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin, whose 2021 victory was seen as a rebuke by Virginia voters of Democratic-controlled Washington. In the poll, 54 percent approved of the job Youngkin was doing — the highest number measured in this survey for a Virginia governor since Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell in 2013 — and 38 percent disapproved.
Youngkin was not on the ballot Tuesday, but he invested heavily in the elections and in some ways made himself the face of Republicans’ push to retake the legislature.
A win for Republicans would have given Youngkin significant control in a state that still is solidly blue on the federal level — but instead, voters held their noses through their distaste with Biden and pulled the lever for Democrats in key battlegrounds.
Those districts mirror the areas where much of the fight for control of the White House will take place across the country next year — suburban swing districts that have largely raced away from the GOP since Donald Trump came on the scene.
Democrats won by running a campaign that was intensely focused on abortion rights. Virginia is one of the last states in the South that has any access to the procedure, and Democrats argued that a unified Republican government would threaten that.
Abortion was far and away the top issue in Democratic ads throughout the race, mentioned about 2.5 times more frequently than the party’s second most-talked about issue, education, according to the advertising tracking firm AdImpact.
Tuesday’s wins will likely validate Democrats’ plans to continue to run on abortion next year, a strategy that has given them a series of almost uninterrupted wins since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade last summer.
“In hundreds of races since Donald Trump’s conservative Supreme Court appointments overturned Roe v. Wade, we’ve seen Americans overwhelmingly side with President Biden and Democrats’ vision for this country,” Biden’s campaign manager Julie Chávez Rodríguez said in a statement Tuesday night. “That same choice will be before voters again next November, and we are confident the American people will send President Biden and Vice President Harris back to the White House to keep working for them.”
They also show that Youngkin doesn’t have the silver bullet for solving the GOP’s electoral problems with abortion, as his operation had hoped. Youngkin’s operation poured millions into ads that said Republicans in the state would push for a 15-week ban on abortion, calling their position reasonable and casting Democrats as the ones who are extreme.
Voters, evidently, did not agree.
In a small way, Democrats’ wins in Old Dominion on Tuesday also makes a 2024 rematch between Biden and Trump more likely.
Some big GOP donors nervous about Trump’s continued stranglehold over the party have been practically begging Youngkin, a rising star in the party, to launch a last-minute bid for the presidential nomination. The governor has steadfastly insisted he was focused on winning Virginia’s legislative elections, but pointedly he never entirely ruled out a run.
Now, Virginia voters have weighed in — and may have knocked the white knight off of his horse.