An off-year, gubernatorial election in a blue-leaning state usually wouldn’t draw much attention from national media outlets.
However, voters in the Commonwealth of Virginia are set to head to the polls today and the results of this election will be closely watched by commentators and analysts all around the world.
If Glenn Youngkin defeats Terry McAuliffe, he would not only become the first Republican governor of Virginia since 2014, he may create a wave of momentum with the potential to change the political landscape of the entire country.
That’s not an over- exaggeration.
Consider all the variables.
President Joe Biden defeated Donald Trump by more than 10 points in Virginia just one year ago, winning by more than half a million votes.
McAuliffe served as Virginia’s governor from 2014 to 2018 and was considered a fairly popular figure.
He seemed a safe, familiar candidate for Democrats, who have dominated politics in the state for the past decade.
Republicans have not won a statewide election in Virginia since 2009.
Just a few months ago, McAuliffe’s return to the governor’s mansion seemed almost certain. He had a comfortable lead in every poll.
One gaff, though, has changed the race and the political climate.
During a televised debate with Youngkin in Sept. 21, McAuliffe actually uttered these words:
“I don’t think parents should be telling schools what they should teach.”
At that moment, education suddenly became the biggest issue to many voters in Virginia.
And ever since, Democrats and the McAuliffe campaign have been trying to change the subject.
It hasn’t worked.
The latest polls show Youngkin surging to a surprising lead. Real Clear Politics, which averages together all major indicators from various sources, gives Youngkin an almost two-point lead.
Other polls have Youngkin up as much as eight.
The momentum is real.
I’ve seen it.
While visiting family in Virginia last month, I was struck by the hundreds of red Youngkin signs posted all across the state, especially in the Tidewater area, where the Republican calls home.
Evidence of support for the former governor were not nearly as prevalent.
McAulifee and his allies have tirelessly tried to nationalize the race and to tie Youngkin to Trump.
The former governor has called in Democrat heavyweights like Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris and New Jersey Senator Corey Booker, among others.
Biden referenced Trump 24 times during a campaign event with McAulifee last week in Northern Virginia and called the Republican challenger an “acolyte of Trump.”
Youngkin has been careful not to align himself too closely to the former President, while also trying to secure the support of the Make America Great Again crowd.
His focus has remained on local issues.
That’s made a big difference.
And it could have a big impact — in the bigger picture.
With Biden’s approval rating plummeting, Republicans already had serious hopes of regaining control of the House of Representatives and the Senate in 2022 midterm elections.
A Youngkin victory in Virginia could be an indication of a drastic shift in the political tide.
Or it could be just a snapshot of one election in one state, shaped by one big mistake.
We will see.
Either way, everyone will be watching.