11 Reasons Why Virginia Republicans Won’t Win This Fall
Chris Saxman did the best he could in presenting 11 Reasons Why Virginia Republicans Can Win This Fall – and as usual, the “best he could” is not half-bad. This post is, of course, a response to him, but not necessarily against him. I, too, can see potential pitfalls for the Democrats this November. I just see much, much bigger problems for the Republican Party of Virginia this fall.
To be clear, I’m not saying the Republicans are certain to lose in November (although I think it likely). I am saying that if they do, these are the reasons why.
11. The economy: While economic recovery is far from sufficient to ensure a victory for the party in power in Richmond, it never hurts.
10. COVID vaccines: Republicans may have seen this as an opportunity to score points against Democratic incompetence in the winter months, but the Biden roll-out is making this look more like an advantage to the incumbents in Richmond. On top of that, Virginia’s vaccine effort has been running ahead of the national effort for months (WaPo). Voters are more likely to look with fondness upon the vaccine distribution than with fury.
9. The new districts: Sax points out that the Republicans “won 67 seats the same night Terry McAuliffe and the Democrats swept the Big Three offices in 2013,” (emphasis in original) and that, “Most of those districts have the exact same lines from 2013.” But “most” is not “all.” In 2017, Democrats took 53% of the House votes (compared to 40% in 2013) and won 49 seats. With the newly drawn Hampton Roads lines in 2019, the Democrats gained 6 seats despite dropping half a percent of the vote share. Republicans may still have malapportion-driven advantages, but they’re much smaller than they were in the previous decade.
8. Mishandling the Parole Board issue: Every time the issue of recent Parole Board activity comes up, Democrats put the focus on the Vincent Martin case. For now, Republican legislators are weary of limiting themselves to the case of a Black man convicted in 1979 for a crime he has insisted he never committed. Will the Republican nominees be so circumspect? Or will they be blinded by the conviction itself? If the RPV isn’t careful, they’ll give Democrats yet another reason to motivate their base.
7. Laws that would have immunized the killer of Heather Heyer: For most of the country, the bizarre “anti-riot” laws percolating in state legislatures – including one signed into law by Ron DeSantis in Florida – would be a strange and worrisome change to a hypothetical situation. Here in Virginia, DeSantis’ law means had Heather Heyer been killed in Clearwater rather than Charlottesville, her killed could very well have escaped justice. Sax righty noted that the party holding the White House usually has trouble motivating its base in Virginia elections. This is one of the many reasons that may not hold in 2021. Republican candidates will (and should) be grilled about whether or not they support immunity for Heather Heyer’s killer. Moreover, they may find the answer harder to give thanks to the GOP base (more on that later).
6. The nominee: The RPV scheduled a convention for the 8th of May in the hope it would lead to the nomination of candidates with broad, cross-party appeal. That’s not going so well so far. The only candidate that would come close to the aforementioned description (Delegate Kirk Cox) has resorted to spreading misinformation about “ending math classes” and favorably tweeting Breitbart stories. This assumes, of course, that he would even be nominated – a fact less likely due to the error most candidates make with ranked choice voting. Cox is so focused on being everyone’s “second choice” that he’s made it less likely he’ll have enough first preferences to make it into the later rounds. He may be the anti-Chase, anti-Snyder, and anti-Youngkin candidate, but he ends up the fourth of four in the fourth round, he’s still eliminated.
5. The convention: Of course, just because there will be a convention (of sorts) on the 8th doesn’t mean there will be a nominee. Seven rounds of ballot counting takes time – especially when weighted votes are thrown in (something that has never been done with ranked choice voting as far as I know). If the RPV is lucky, it will only take days to sort out. More likely, arguments over proper counting and weighting will lead to appeals up the line, lawsuits, or even a general election write-in campaign from Amanda Chase (assuming she isn’t nominated). Contrary to the early conventional wisdom, Republicans may not settle on their nominee until after the Democratic primary.
4. The rabid base: Both major parties have frustrations within their coalitions; that’s a natural condition. Only one, however, has a base that is rehashing lies about election fraud, demanding loyalty to a defeated and unpopular president, and cheering on laws that allow them to run over protestors they don’t like. Far too many Virginia Republicans have fixated on Donald Trump as the problem because it’s easier than ignoring the radicalization of their friends and neighbors (or even themselves). Independents notice it, however, and Democrats can use it to motivate their own voters.
3. Rudy Giuliani: As important as local issues are to Virginia elections, the national environment has been increasingly determinative. As Sax noted, a relatively even and static 2013 campaign became whiplashed in October by the federal government shutdown and the botched Obamacare rollout. This time, at least one of the national stories impacting Virginia is the Justice Department’s investigation of Rudy Giuliani. As the point man in Trump’s efforts to spread misinformation on the Bidens, Giuliani inspires Democratic anger (and turnout) on multiple levels: keeping Trump and the GOP’s devotion to same in the news, reminders of the sleazy grifting that characterized the Trump-led GOP, and tying said GOP to Vladimir Putin.
2. Voter suppression and overturning laws: As important as national matters can be in Virginia, they normally don’t directly relate to state issues. Then the Georgia legislature empowered itself to overturn elections it didn’t like. For Democrats, the right to vote in a free and fair election is itself on the ballot. Republicans may try to shift the issue to voter ID (which is far safer ground for them), but if Democrats can keep the focus on the Big Lie and the Republicans’ fealty to it, Virginians are more likely to keep the RPV as far away from power as possible – and odds are Democrats will have a lot of help from Reason #1.
1. Donald Trump: Virginia Republicans have been telling themselves for months that The Former Guy would finally recede in the minds of voters, allowing them to play the outsider card as they did in 2009. For months, the rest of us have been trying to tell them that Donald Trump has no interest in going away. It’s just April, but Trump is not only refusing to let up on the Big Lie but demanding the entire party follow his lead. There is no reason to believe that will change over the next several months. He will bring out the worst in his fans (for all the rest of us to see), anger and frighten Democrats into voting in droves (again), and suppress his own vote with wild nonsense about election fraud. Whomever Republicans nominate will be forced into defending him to keep the rabid base energized as much as possible, which will only succeed in motivating Democrats all the more. Even an exasperated Donald-Trump-isn’t-president response (normally a perfectly valid way of shutting down the discussion) can’t be used – because too much of the rabid base will see that as a betrayal of the Big Lie.
In the end, Trump remains the reason the Democrats are the favorites this November. He insists on being the gift that keeps on giving for the Democrats. He will refuse to do the one thing the RPV needs from him – namely, go away.