While three states – Kentucky, Louisiana and Mississippi – hold off-year gubernatorial races Election Day 2023Tuesday’s showdown at the polls could end up being the showdown in Virginia’s legislative elections.
National Democrats and Republicans have spent millions in races for control of Virginia legislature with the election seen in political circles as a key barometer ahead of the 2024 presidential elections, control of Congress and key gubernatorial positions.
Here are five reasons why the Commonwealth is the state to watch when election results are released Tuesday night.
1. Virginia is a bellwether for 2024
We’ve said it so many times in recent weeks that it’s almost become a cliché. But the fact is that the national political spotlight is firmly on the congressional elections in Virginia.
Republicans won elections for governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general two years ago — their first statewide victory in a dozen years — and they flipped the House of Delegates.
Victories in a state that had trended blue over the previous decade energized Republicans all over the country.
But that momentum didn’t carry over into the 2022 midterm elections.
Now, Gov. Glenn Youngkin aims to maintain the Republican Party’s slim majority in the House of Representatives and regain control of the state Senate, where Democrats currently hold a fragile majority, to give Republicans new momentum to nationally ahead of next year’s elections.
Youngkin is drawing national attention to his state’s legislative showdowns.
“I think that should be an indicator because Virginia is in the lead,” he told Fox News Digital. “I think we can lead the way and demonstrate that in a state that was lost, a state that was totally controlled by Democrats, we can in 24 months come together – Republicans, independents and, yes, some Democrats – and choose common sense conservative leadership. and policies that work. … I think other states should take note.
2. Abortion is a crucial issue
Last year’s blockbuster decision by the Supreme Court’s conservative majority to overturn the landmark Roe v. Wade, almost half a century old, who had allowed legalized abortions nationally, shifted the controversial issue back to the states.
And that has forced Republicans to play a very defensive role in elections across the country. An almost entirely “pro-life” party faced an electorate in which a majority of Americans support at least some form of abortion access.
National and state Democrats have made abortion a central part of their get-out-the-vote campaign in Virginia.
While some Republicans have been hesitant to focus on abortion, Youngkin is leaning into the issue and proposing a 15-week abortion ban, with exceptions for rape, incest and the life of the mother.
“I just wanted us to be very clear about what we were going to do,” he told Fox News.
“The other side is really good at spreading false truths. And, of course, what they want to do is make abortion available up until birth, paid for with taxpayer dollars,” he said. Youngkin said.
The governor argued that the Democrats’ position was “far too extreme for Virginians.”
“I’ve been very clear. There is no ban. We would support a bill to protect life at 15 weeks when a baby feels pain, with exceptions for rape and incest when the mother’s life is in danger. And that’s reasonable. “limits,” he argued. “I think with abortion we’ve found a place where we can come together. I think voters will support it.”
Democrats want to maintain the state’s current restrictions, which allow abortions into the second trimester. And they note that Virginia is the only Southern state that does not ban abortion.
3. GOP pushes for early voting
Youngkin is on a mission to encourage Republicans to turn out in large numbers during the state’s early voting period, before Election day.
“When Republicans vote, Republicans win. When we mobilize, we win,” Youngkin stressed. “We need to get the vote out.”
Youngkin’s mission is shared by the Republican National Committee. Earlier this year, the RNC launched a national “Bank Your Vote” campaign to encourage GOP voters to participate in in-person early voting and mail-in voting to close the gap with Democrats.
It’s a difficult task after three years of that of former President Donald Trump repeated claims that early and mail-in voting were rife with fraud amid his unproven accusations that his 2020 election defeat was due to a rigged election.
In the 2018 midterm elections, Democrats had a six-point advantage over Republicans’ 35.1 percent support, according to data from the University of Florida’s US Elections Project. This gap widened to almost 12 points during the 2022 cycle.
The Virginia election will be the first major test of the GOP’s early voting efforts.
4. It’s in the mail
While the results in Virginia may give us some insight into Republicans’ early voting efforts, they will also tell us something about Democrats’ push for mail-in voting.
Democrats have pumped millions of dollars into Virginia’s elections, with the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee (DLCC) encouraging turnout through grassroots outreach, direct mail, robocalls, and digital and television ads.
“We are closely monitoring many aspects of this election as the vote comes in,” Abhi Rahman, DLCC communications director, told Fox News.
“Simply put, with our lead in early voting, if Democrats continue to return their mail-in ballots, we will win,” Rahman emphasized. “The election comes down to whether or not Democrats will return their mail-in ballots. Everything is on the line, and if the rates are high enough, we are confident we will come out on top.”
5. Youngkin’s political future could be at stake
He’s not on the ballot, but Youngkin has become the face of Virginia’s congressional elections and has a lot riding on the results.
As a first-time candidate from the party’s business wing, Youngkin edged out former Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe in 2021 to become the first GOP candidate in a dozen years to win a gubernatorial election in Virginia.
His victory immediately made Youngkin a rising GOP star that some experts considered a possible Candidate for the White House in 2024.
A number of major conservative donors who do not support former President Donald Trump – the current front-runner in the race for the Republican Party nomination – have quietly stepped up their efforts to persuade Youngkin to run for the White House this fall .
That pressure will increase significantly if the Republican Party gains full control of Virginia’s government in next week’s election.