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For Democrats, Being ‘Anti-Trump’ Isn’t Enough

Clarence Page, Tribune Content Agency on

Often a master of metaphors, progressive CNN commentator Van Jones almost outdid himself by calling Glenn Youngkin’s victory in Virginia’s governor’s race “the delta variant of Trumpism.”

Almost. Jones’ novel description of Republican Youngkin’s ability to break through Democratic defenses is clever but not quite accurate. By the numbers, Youngkin’s surprisingly large and broad-based victory came in spite of Trump as much as because of him.

That’s an important distinction to note as national Democrats try to get past their shock over a loss that was larger and more decisive than the polls — which had them neck-and-neck — had predicted.

And the shock was enhanced further by this year’s only other statewide race. In New Jersey, Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy beat Republican challenger Jack Ciattarelli in a nail-biter that also ended much closer than polls had predicted.

Both results amounted to the sort of off-year political earthquake that President George W. Bush called a “thumpin’ ” in 2006 and President Barack Obama called a “shellacking” in 2010.

What went wrong for the Dems and so right for the Grand Old Party?

 

Some observers speculated that voters were simply exhausted after the pandemic and political turmoil around last year’s elections. But turnout overall was higher than any other election since 1997, officials said. Voters were energized, but not enough for Terry McAuliffe.

Still, the great night for Youngkin turned out to be a questionable night for Donald Trump. Despite his resilient popularity among Republicans, his efforts to be a political kingmaker took a hit when Youngkin managed to do just fine without Trump’s visible help.

Yes, Republican Youngkin won Trump’s coveted endorsement, but wisely avoided appearing anywhere in public with the big Orange Ego. Even in a dial-in “tele-rally” on the election’s eve, the former president praised Youngkin as “a fantastic guy,” even though Youngkin was nowhere to be seen.

McAuliffe’s frustration over Trump’s invisibility showed itself in his closing campaign speech that evening. He claimed falsely that Youngkin was “doing an event with Donald Trump here in Virginia.” Not true.

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