Leahy: Glenn Youngkin’s Campaign Rolls Out the Crime Ads

Glenn Youngkin’s gubernatorial campaign has rolled out a pair of new ads that hit former governor and Democratic gubernatorial nominee Terry McAuliffe in what Republicans hope is his softest spot: crime.

The ads hit very hard and are sure to energize those who already are firmly behind or leaning toward Youngkin, the Republican nominee.

That doesn’t mean the ads are flawless. Both demand we ignore the ideological gymnastics behind the pitch. Here, it’s right-to-work loving Republicans leaning on unions, and public-sector unions at that, to support their gubernatorial nominee. That’s, um, interesting.

That aside, are these good wedge issue ads that might cause a rift between Democrats and their (relatively) newfound suburban voters?

That’s certainly the hope. And there’s a solid history in Virginia of law-and-order candidates doing well in general elections. One of the most successful was a Republican first-time statewide contender named George Allen. As The Post’s Donald Baker and John Harris wrote following Allen’s landslide win over Democratic nominee Mary Sue Terry in 1993, Allen “exploited widespread dissatisfaction with Democratic leaders in Richmond and Washington and presented himself as a tough-on-crime family man who embodied change.”

Allen’s win — built partially on a promise to abolish parole — accelerated the GOP’s rise to prominence in the commonwealth and brought to statewide notice a new Republican attorney general named Jim Gilmore, who would win his own landslide gubernatorial election in 1997.

What’s any of this got to do with a couple of ads Glenn Youngkin is running in a much different governor’s race 28 years later?

Again: Law-and-order campaigns can be very successful. The University of Richmond’s Dan Palazzolo told me they “tend to work in specific situations, like when the crime rate is high or a high profile case demands of tough response.”

The Youngkin campaign’s “Extreme” and “Dangerous” ads, based in part on Virginia State Police crime data, hope to drive home the idea that violent crime in particular is nearly out of control and that renewing crime-coddler McAuliffe’s lease on the Executive Mansion means those shadowy, bearded, knife-wielding bad guys, as depicted in the ads, are coming to a suburb near you.

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