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The Patron Saint of Superheroes

Chris Gavaler Explores the Multiverse of Comics, Pop Culture, and Politics

I won’t bother autopsying the polls. On November 1, Youngkin was up about 1%, and on November 2, he won by about 2%, well within any margin of error. Bottom line: poll accuracy collapses whenever Trump is on the ticket, but otherwise they perform just fine.

Local Democrats performed just fine too. Trying to figure out what they could do better next election, I discovered that Democrats actually did a good job getting out the vote in my area. Where McAuliffe underperformed in some other places due to Democratic lethargy, here in Lexington and Rockbridge, Democratic voter turnout increased slightly from the last governor race. Where Northam received a total of 4,135 votes in 2017, McAuliffe received 4,342, for a gain of 207. 

Third candidate Princess Blanding of the newly formed and highly progressive Liberation Party took only 10 votes in Lexington and 38 in Rockbridge, so her presence wasn’t significant. Though if you combine her and McAuliffe’s votes, the total progressive vote gain inches up to 245. 

But the local GOP did even better getting out their vote. Where GOP governor candidate Ed Gillespie received a total of 5,445 Rockbridge and Lexington votes in 2017, Youngkin received 7,671, for an impressive gain of 2,326.

That’s how Youngkin won. John Domen of WTOP News explains:

“In Southwestern Virginia, which is very rural, Youngkin did well. In each county, Youngkin found a way to add a few hundred votes here, or another thousand votes there. Virginia has 95 counties, and even if many of them aren’t very populated, those votes eventually added up. So when you combine the boost in rural voters with those in the suburbs and exurbs, a red wave just turned Virginia a lot more purple than four years ago.”

At the state level, Northam received 1,409,175 votes in 2017. McAuliffe received 1,588,557. That’s an increase of 179,382. But Youngkin’s 1,660,438 votes beat Northam’s winning total by 251,263.

So 71,881 votes divide Youngkin and McAuliffe. That’s a much smaller divide than when Biden beat Trump by 451,138 a year ago. Trump’s personal lawyer Giuliani claimed the Virginia results were rigged, and Youngkin promised to conduct an audit of the 2020 election as soon as he takes office. Since the 2021 results are now far far closer, will he audit those too?

Regardless, Youngkin got out (much of) the Trump base. In 2020, Trump received 1,962,430 votes, 301,992 more than Youngkin. In comparison, McAuliffe failed to get out as many of the 2,413,568 Virginians who voted for Biden, losing 825,011 of them. A lot of that has to do with Biden’s approval rating—which isn’t as low as Trump’s was, but is still well before 50%. Newsflash: Virginia Democrats aren’t excited by either Biden or McAuliffe.

So how did Youngkin get out so many of the Trump voters?

Currently 66% of Republicans (according to a Yahoo News/YouGov survey in August) still believe the 2020 election was stolen. Youngkin carefully courted those believers, substituting Trump’s belligerent rhetoric with mild-mannered terms like “voter integrity,” which he said was “the most important issue” of the campaign. He never said the election was stolen—but he also didn’t correct any of his surrogates when they made the claim in front of cheering Trump crowds.

A similar number of Republicans (63% according to a Politico-Morning Consult survey in June) believe that so-called Critical Race Theory is a threat to public education. Youngkin courted those folks directly, claiming that CRT (whatever it is, since the definition keeps shifting) was being taught in Virginia schools and promising to put an end to it. One of his last campaign ads featured a conservative activist who has been trying to get Nobel-winning novelist Toni Morrison’s Pulitzer-winning novel Beloved banned from Virginia schools for the last decade because it gave her son nightmares when he read it in AP English.

Those aren’t the worst numbers though. 28% of Republicans (according to a PRRI-IFYC survey from May) believe the Qanon principles that there is a “storm coming soon” to “sweep away the elites in power and restore the rightful leaders” and “because things have gotten so far off track” “true American patriots may have to resort to violence.” Even worse, 23% of Republicans believe that “the government, media and financial worlds in the U.S. are controlled by a group of Satan-worshipping pedophiles who run a global child sex-trafficking operation.”

Youngkin didn’t court those Trump voters. He didn’t have to. They’re self-motivating. They are the core of the 2021 Red Wave that swept the Virginia GOP back into power.

So the question facing Democrats for the 2022 mid-terms and 2023 Virginia legislature races: How the hell do you out-motivate a pro-violence voter base who thinks your candidates rape and traffic children while helping Satan achieve world domination by destroying education and rigging elections?

I’ll have to get back to you on that.

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