So What Happened?
“The people who come down from the hills after the battle to shoot the wounded.” – Murray Kempton on pundits
I am quite certain several of my colleagues here at Bearing Drift will spend all sorts of bandwidth about all of the things Glenn Youngkin and his fellow Republicans did right. My focus is what Terry McAuliffe and his fellow Democrats did wrong.
We’ll start across the Potomac, because the first major problem for the Democrats came from Washington – but it’s not what conventional wisdom says. While the two wings of the party arguing with each other about the infrastructure and reconciliation bills certainly didn’t help, that roiling battle had begun months before with little impact on Biden’s approval rating.
That changed dramatically with the fall of Kabul (emphasis added).
For most of 2021, Washington Democrats were largely staying out of Terry McAuliffe’s way, while Republicans were forcing Glenn Youngkin to talk out of both sides of his mouth regarding the Big Lie. All in all, the national events weren’t helping a party that desperately needed it.
Last week, they finally went the RPV’s way.
The fall of Kabul swiftly ended whatever honeymoon Joe Biden still had with the voters. Five-thirty-eight‘s approval tracking has Biden below 50%. Presumption of “the adults back in charge” have been shaken.
Abandoning Afghanistan was the switch-flipper, turning Biden’s net approval negative and keeping it there. It was especially damaging with the national security Red Dogs who were furious at Trump’s Taliban deal – and a demographic overrepresented in the Northern Virginia suburbs.
So there were serious political headwinds for Democrats – as the elections in New Jersey are also showing. However, T-Mac had faced – and beaten – national political headwinds before. To be sure, he faced a better opponent this time, but he was also very much a worse candidate himself. To wit…
As Mike Tyson put it, “Every one has a plan until they’ve been punched in the mouth.” T-Mac took hits from Kabul and from himself, but for reasons known only to him, he refused to adjust.
Credit to Glenn Youngkin; he ran a very good campaign, but he had the added advantage of an opponent who wouldn’t change the game plan.