The test of Republican gubernatorial candidate Glenn Youngkin’s political nerve and message discipline is officially underway. No longer a dilettante, Youngkin is the public face of the Virginia GOP from now until Election Day. For more than a decade, that’s meant carrying the party standard to increasingly ignominious defeats as Democrats reclaimed trifecta control of state government.
Youngkin appears to have passed one key test his predecessors continually failed: He has the party united  behind him. Without having to worry about an independent bid soaking up attention and resources or a slate of defeated challengers quietly undermining the campaign from the sidelines, Youngkin has the kind of unified support the GOP hasn’t had since Robert F. McDonnell’s (R) landslide victory over Creigh Deeds (D) in the 2009 gubernatorial race.
But a unified Virginia GOP is hardly a guarantee of victory. The party that got behind McDonnell was much different from the one backing Youngkin. The 2009 version was strong enough to elect statewide candidates — recall that McDonnell was elected attorney general in 2005 (narrowly defeating Deeds) and Bill Bolling was the incumbent lieutenant governor. Republicans controlled the House of Delegates and padded their majority in 2009.
The 2021 Virginia GOP is a charred hulk that hasn’t elected anyone statewide since 2009 and lost its General Assembly majorities in 2019. As for the four GOP U.S. House members, they managed to beclown themselves earlier this year when they embraced  the ex-president’s Big Lie about the 2020 election.
To say the GOP has fallen far and fast since the McDonnell is an understatement.
Youngkin may not have played a role in any of it. But again: He’s the new face of the state GOP. It’s his burden to bear.
But that doesn’t mean he has to spend the summer on an apology tour. That would doom the GOP to another defeat — without the eventual Democratic nominee having to lift a finger.
Instead, Youngkin is reaching into the back of the GOP cupboard and pulling out the old ingredients of the party’s statewide success, appealing to the issues that motivate suburban voters.