by David M. Drucker

A win by Republican Glenn Youngkin in the Virginia governor’s race presents a mortal threat to President Joe Biden’s agenda, prompting congressional Democrats to accelerate efforts to enact legislation before Election Day.

The vote is set for Nov. 2, next Tuesday, leaving Democrats little time to resolve their differences and pass some version of the $3.5 trillion “reconciliation” package proposed by Biden and supported by congressional progressives but opposed by centrists. If Biden’s agenda heads into Election Day still in limbo and Democrat Terry McAuliffe loses to Youngkin in reliably blue Virginia, bridging the gap between the progressives and the centrists could prove futile.

Democrats may yet gift Biden a big legislative victory, including passage of his bipartisan $1 trillion infrastructure package, before Virginia votes. But a loss in the commonwealth, where Republicans have not won a major statewide contest in more than a decade, would be interpreted as a stinging rebuke of the president and his party. Democrats on Capitol Hill are likely to respond by assuming a protective crouch as they prepare for the 2022 midterm elections.

“Losing Virginia would put Democrats in a defensive position,” said Ed Espinoza, a Democratic operative in Austin, Texas. “They can mitigate that demonstrating an accomplishment, having something to deliver, sooner rather than later. The good news is that political opinions shift quickly, and a year out from an election is an eternity in politics.”

Youngkin, 54, a career private equity investor, has been gaining on McAuliffe, the 64-year-old former governor, down the stretch of this key off-year campaign. With the Democrat leading the Republican by a mere 1.8 percentage points in the RealClearPolitics average, the race is virtually tied. Simultaneously, Biden’s job approval rating has plummeted to 42.4%. Youngkin finishing on top also could have a profound impact on Republicans and the kind of campaign they prosecute in 2022.

Youngkin and Republicans running down-ballot in Virginia have made overhauling public schools and banning critical race theory a top issue in the campaign.

Youngkin, at Parents Matter rally in Culpeper: "The ...

Suburban parents who have been voting Democrat, including for Biden in 2020, are unhappy with how the public schools were managed during the coronavirus pandemic. There also has been parental unrest surrounding CRT, which emphasizes racial differences in the teaching of history and related subjects. Republicans believe Youngkin’s opposition to CRT is moving votes. Winning the governor’s mansion would validate this strategy and encourage more Republicans to adopt this message.

“If Youngkin wins, Republicans will take their cultural war into the classrooms from coast to coast,” Democratic strategist Dane Strother said. “They likely will regardless.”

Virginia GOP gubernatorial candidate Glenn Youngkin cozies ...

Democrats are arguing that Virginia is more competitive than it appears and that they always expected McAuliffe versus Youngkin to be close and hard fought.

But the commonwealth has not been a toss-up battleground for years.

Despite some occasional close calls, Virginia voters have been voting Democrat for state and federal office consistently since the early days of former President Barack Obama’s administration, including Biden’s gargantuan win of more than 10 points over former President Donald Trump last November. The Republicans’ underdog status in Virginia was solidified under Trump, as competitive suburbs outside of Washington, D.C., and Richmond turned away from the GOP in a backlash against the 45th president.

That is why Republicans believe Youngkin being elected governor would be so seismic and send Democrats in Congress scurrying for cover. This is especially the case for veteran Republican operatives who have been in the Democrats’ position before: staring down the barrel of brutal midterm elections.

Speaking from this experience, Republicans predict it would become almost impossible for Biden to pass major legislation, like his massive reconciliation spending package, that relies on his party’s thin majorities in the House and Senate, as Democrats, especially the vulnerable centrists among them, go into “every man for himself mode” in a furious effort to survive 2022.

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“Members in marginal districts are survivalists, and the fight-or-flee instinct choice is going to kick in hard,” said Brad Todd, a Republican strategist in Washington. “Democrats have too thin a majority to have anyone flee.”

Democrats are clinging to a five-seat majority in the House. In the Senate, they control a 50-seat “majority” that rests on Vice President Kamala Harris’ tie-breaking vote.

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