The National  Memo Logo

Smart. Sharp. Funny. Fearless.

Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

Tag: terry mcauliffe

Don't Get Too Excited About Virginia, Republicans

As a lifelong sports fan, it's been decades since I let a ballgame make me unhappy. Back when my sons would plunge into mourning over Razorback basketball losses, I'd remind them that somebody loses every game that's played. No point brooding; there will be another game soon.

I feel basically the same about off-year elections. A governor elected by a 51-48 margin, like both Virginia Republican Glenn Youngkin and New Jersey Democrat Phil Murphy, won't be able to alter the fundamentals of political life in those states—much less anywhere else.

To choose the most obvious example, Gov. Youngkin will find it easy to fulfill his biggest campaign promise: banning the teaching of Critical Race Theory in the Commonwealth. That's because nobody actually teaches it, giving GOP "cancel culture" a big head start. It's an obscure academic doctrine metamorphosed into a Fox News phantasm.

Former Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe's awkward statement that parents have no business dictating school curricula looks was an unforced error that may have determined the outcome. Many voters understood him to mean that parents should butt out altogether, a crucial mistake.

The whole episode couldn't help but summon memories of my young wife being summoned before a rural Virginia school board after teaching Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men to tenth graders. One parent found the phrase "blue ball" (describing a toy) to be sexually suggestive and demanded her firing.

The board exonerated her.

Meanwhile, I had done some substituting at the county's segregated black high school, with its worn, hand-me-down textbooks and rocks used as bases on the ball field. I wonder what Critical Race Theory would say about that?

Don't tell the children.

But I digress. McAuliffe's biggest blunder may have been running against the ghost of Donald Trump. A handsome suburbanite out of GOP central casting, Youngkin managed to hold Trumpist voters without alienating others—mainly by keeping the big blowhard out of Virginia and far from his campaign.

Otherwise, neither the Virginia nor New Jersey results did much to justify the melodramatic coverage—particularly on cable TV. Josh Marshall put things in perspective on his Talking Points Memo website:

"New Jersey's Murphy has won what the press portrays as a squeaker, almost illegitimate and certainly embarrassing, by a margin of 77,000 votes. The Great White Hope Glenn Youngkin, on the other hand, won his Virginia landslide victory of all victories by 79,000….

"We can add to this that Murphy is the first Democratic Governor of New Jersey to be reelected in 44 years. Meanwhile, going back 48 years the party which does not hold the presidency has won the Virginia's race all but one time. That was when Terry McAuliffe won in 2013."

In short, nothing fundamental has changed. The public nearly always turns against the party of an incumbent president during his first year, partly because the losers are more motivated. In 2009, after Barack Obama had defeated John McCain, Democrats lost both the New Jersey and Virginia governorships. The year after Trump defeated Hillary Clinton in 2016, Democrats won in both states. Pendulum swings are inevitable.

That's why the most intriguing reaction amid the hullabaloo on the network news programs was voiced by the far right Gateway Pundit website. Why did Virginia Democrats let Youngkin win?

See in Trumpist precincts — Gateway Pundit proprietor Jim Hoft was feted at Mar-a-Lago only last weekend — the "Big Steal" is an article of faith, although Republicans haven't won a presidential race in Virginia since 2008. Trump lost there in 2020 by 450,000 votes.

"So where were the magical votes this year?" Hoft demanded to know. "Was this omission on purpose?" Was this part of a larger psyop on the American public?...Throw in McAuliffe as a sacrificial lamb knowing they can steal any future election at will?"

Well, I certainly hope so.

Because by any rational standard, President Biden had a string of remarkable successes last week, although you sure couldn't tell from the media coverage. Never mind his successful appearance at the world climate summit in Glasgow. On Friday, Labor Department jobs report showed the U.S. economy taking off, with 530,000 new jobs created in October, and revised figures from September adding 235,000 more. Unemployment edged down to 4.6 percent while the stock market reached record highs.

Then on Friday night, the House finally passed the bipartisan $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill, the largest transportation initiative in U.S. history. Passage of Biden's $2 trillion "Build Back Better" plan appears all but assured.

Meanwhile, the Covid death rate shrinks and vaccinations of children have begun. Yet "Dems in Disarray," is the perennial theme Washington pundits have chosen, and they're not easily dissuaded. On her CNN program last Friday, the lovely and quick-witted Erin Burnett badgered and talked over guests who advised patience on the infrastructure bill.

Come Monday, she demanded to know why Biden hadn't signed it yet.

On Election Eve, Trump Says He And Youngkin ‘Believe In Many Of The Same Policies’

Ahead of his Monday night tele-rally, former President Donald Trump praised Virginia's Republican gubernatorial nominee and said they "believe in many of the same policies."

Read Now Show less

Is Virginia Prepared To Debunk 'Voter Fraud' Lies In Governor's Race?

As the Virginia governor's race heads toward a nail-biting conclusion – with polls from Fox News saying that Republican Glenn Youngkin is ahead and the Washington Post saying that Democrat Terry McAuliffe is ahead – how prepared are election experts to quickly counter disinformation should McAuliffe, a former governor, pull ahead in the first unofficial results?

The answer is not very, according to interviews with election officials, Democratic Party lawyers, election protection attorneys, and experts in academia and policy circles.

At best, it appears that government officials and experts with election administration experience will say again what Americans heard after the 2020 presidential election: that the voting process is trustworthy, includes checks and balances, and therefore the results are legitimate. What is not likely to be seen is quick and easily understood proof of the winner based in public election records that attest to legitimacy of the voters and the accuracy of the vote counts.

"I just don't think there's a factual way to combat this, or debunk this, nor do I think that's an effective strategy," said David Becker, executive director and founder of the non-partisan Center for Election Innovation and Research. "The simple fact is that if McAuliffe wins, the election deniers will claim fraud, regardless of facts, and then will make things up to support their false claims. We need a broader narrative about the security of elections, and force them to answer to that."

Becker continued, "The fact is that since 2017, Virginia has paper ballots statewide, and in the last couple of years, has instituted risk-limiting audits throughout the state. Ballots cannot be made up or dumped. I am firmly against getting into a meaningless cycle where we have to prove that an election had integrity when we've already done so. We've seen how that won't change minds."

Becker is referring to post-election claims, most notably in Arizona, Georgia, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. In those states, pro-Trump legislators have launched "bad-faith audits" where they have hired Trump partisans with little election auditing experience, and given them great leeway look for problems that could be used to cast doubt on results where Trump lost.

During a press briefing on Monday by the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, which hosts a hotline to assist anyone having trouble accessing a ballot, Alexandria Bratton, senior program manager with the Virginia Civic Engagement Table, also pointed to the post-election audits—which would come after the results are certified just before Thanksgiving.

"Our elections, time and time again, have shown that we don't have any large-scale anything [wrong] that's really going on," Bratton said. "I think it's just a matter of using our facts, instead of some of the narratives that folks are trying to push to place fear into our voters."

Bratton's comments were similar to those from other election experts, including recently issued reports that said voting system-testing protocols and audits sufficed to counter disinformation. When Voting Booth noted that disinformation started on Election Day or sooner, while audits occurred weeks later — leaving a void that can be filled with conspiracy chatter — Bratton noted that false claims about Virginia's governor's race have already appeared, but reiterated that the job of election protection advocates is to help voters cast ballots and then arm them with facts.

"We've actually already started seeing some of that disinformation floating on social media… [and at] some of their rallies," Bratton said. "It's not even waiting for results to come in. Folks are already pushing those types of narratives to get those thoughts into folks' minds ahead of time. So what we have tried to do, as the nonpartisan election protection coalition, is just remind folks what the facts are, and when to actually see the results."

The partisan organizations most heavily invested in the governor's race are the political parties. Frank Leone, an election lawyer working with the Democratic Party of Virginia said the party has been "monitoring all that stuff pretty closely, which include Republican and MAGA [Trump's Make America Great Again] group efforts… basically watching everything they do with their theory that somehow in the middle of the night they are switching votes."

Leone said that MAGA factions have begun to copy Arizona activists by knocking on some voters' doors to ask them if they really requested a mailed-out ballot — a tactic that, as the Department of Justice warned Arizona's Trumpers, may violate federal voter intimidation laws. The state's Democratic Party is also monitoring GOP efforts to reportedly deploy several thousand poll watchers as a "line of defense against election fraud," as the Washington Post reported. Top Virginia GOP officials also have been saying that the state's use of drop boxes to receive the mailed-out ballots was an invitation for voting more than once — which is not true, as every return envelope goes through several checks to verify the voter before being opened.

Leone said the state party "was trying to be in the position to respond to these things," and was also concerned about what's been called the "Blue Shift." That's shorthand for the tendency of lower population, rural, GOP-heavy counties to report first on Election Night — presumably putting Youngkin ahead — followed by the state's urban centers, led by suburbs of Washington, D.C., which report their results later in the evening — presumably tilting the count toward McAuliffe. But for the most part, the party has "stayed out of the papers and haven't put our side in."

The Virginia Department of Elections has put up web pages seeking to debunk false claims about elections. Most of its messaging has been consistent with efforts by election officials in other states, emphasizing that there are many safeguards along the path of verifying voters and counting ballots—but not getting into much detail about those protocols and underlying data.

Why Is The Press Rooting For A Democratic Defeat In Virginia?

Reprinted with permission from PressRun

Sticking close to the media's preferred script, Axios this week reported that the walls were caving in on Democrat Terry McAuliffe, who's caught in a surprisingly close race in Virginia's governor's race. "It was clear the McAuliffe campaign has taken on an air of tension — bordering on panic," Axios announced.

Read Now Show less

In Virginia, Organizers Are Turning Out Overlooked Voters Of Color

This article was produced by Voting Booth, a project of the Independent Media Institute.

After 2020's election, Virginia adopted more pro-voter legislation than any state, from expanding access to starting to amend its constitution to enshrine voting rights. But these reforms have not been enough to turn out voters in this fall's statewide elections, where the top-of-the-ticket Democratic and Republican candidates for governor are close in polls but seen as underwhelming.

Read Now Show less

Right-Wing Poll Shows Democrat Winning Virginia Governor’s Race

Reprinted with permission from American Independent

A right-wing group's latest Virginia poll found that Democratic gubernatorial nominee Terry McAuliffe is leading Republican Glenn Youngkin. After the pollster tried to sway voters with a series of fearmongering attacks on McAuliffe, voters still backed the Democrat.

The American Principles Project, a dark-money group led by organizers of the failed anti-marriage equality movement, released a survey on Friday of 600 Virginia voters it deemed likely to participate in this November's election. It found former Gov. McAuliffe leading former investment firm executive Youngkin 46.4 percent -- 41.3 percent.

"Many political observers are already carefully watching Virginia as a bellwether for next year's midterms, and judging from this poll, Republicans should be cautiously excited," the group's president, Terry Schilling, claimed in a press release. "Despite Democrats' recent dominance in the state, Glenn Youngkin looks to be very competitive, thanks to widespread disapproval with the radical left-wing agenda being pushed by President Biden on down."

No Republican has won statewide in Virginia since 2009.

Schilling urged Youngkin and Republicans to put anti-LGBTQ attacks, criticism of the state's public schools, and fearmongering about anti-racism education "front and center" in the campaign.

But the poll's findings undermine much of his argument.

Among those surveyed, Virginians widely approve of President Joe Biden's job performance, 53.9 percent -- 45.2 percent. That number is almost identical to Biden's 54 percent -- 44 percent victory in the state last November.

It also found voters prefer Democratic candidates for the state House of Delegates by a margin of 45.4 percent -- 41.1 percent. Democrats hold a 55-seat majority in that 100-member body.

Though none of the people surveyed said they work for "the Virginia school system," 50.39 percent said they approve of the state's K-12 public schools, while just 35.5 percent disapprove.

When pressed about school reopening during the pandemic, just 44.4 percent said they want schools "fully open without mask mandates for students" for the 2022 school year. The majority (54.9 percent) said either that schools should reopen fully with mask mandates or that schools should keep the option of virtual learning. Youngkin has been pushing for a total return to in-person learning, regardless of COVID-19 safety considerations, since March, well before even most adults in the state were fully vaccinated.

The pollster asked several questions, trying to play up Youngkin's support for public funding for private and parochial schools and his support for a ban on teaching about "Critical Race Theory." But a minority of voters said either issue would make them more likely to support the Republican.

After hearing the group's attacks on McAuliffe, voters were again asked who they'd back. McAuliffe still was ahead 45.8 percent -- 42.9 percent.

In a radio interview on Friday, Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam — who is unable to seek reelection under Virginia's one-term-in-a-row limit — called attacks on anti-racism education a "dog whistle" being used "to scare people in an election year."

"Critical race theory," he told WAMU, is "a graduate level academic subject that is not a part of our K through 12 curriculum in Virginia. I'll repeat that. It is not a part of our K through 12 curriculum. And what I'm interested in and what our administration is interested in is teaching an accurate version of our history."

This is not the first time the American Principles Project has tried to inject far-right social issues into political campaigns.

Last year, it spent millions of dollars on ads attacking Democrats over their support for LGBTQ equality.

"Biden and his fellow Democrats have pledged to use the power of the federal government to destroy women's sports and push young children into highly experimental and dangerous sex-change procedures," Schilling claimed in September. "In the coming weeks, we will be making sure voters in Michigan and nationwide know the extreme agenda Joe Biden and Democrats want to impose on the country."

The group devoted half of its $4 million investment in anti-transgender attacks to trying to defeat Biden and Democratic Sen. Gary Peters in Michigan. Both won anyway.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

VIDEO: Virginia Republican Nominee Admits Hiding His Extreme Views To Win

Reprinted with permission from American Independent

Virginia's Republican nominee for governor reportedly told supporters at a fundraising event in June that he couldn't reveal his true position on abortion rights until after he's elected.

His reasoning: He needs the independent vote to ensure his victory in November.

Glenn Youngkin, the venture capitalist running as a Republican in Virginia's gubernatorial race against former Democratic Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, made the comments to Lauren Windsor, who runs The Undercurrent, a self-described "grassroots political web-show" funded by the liberal advocacy group American Family Voices.

The American Independent obtained the video footage from Windsor, who also shared it with MSNBC.

In the video, Windsor begins speaking with Youngkin about her feigned support for things like "getting a fetal heartbeat bill here like they did in Texas, or defunding Planned Parenthood."

A man who identifies himself only as "Pete" also appears in the video, though his full identity is not immediately clear.

Youngkin responds by telling Windsor that she's "on the right path," adding that he initially wants to work on abortion issues he says a "majority of Virginians" support, including to "stop using taxpayer money for abortions" and banning "abortions all the way up until the last week before birth." (Taxpayer money is not used to fund abortions.)

When Windsor pushes him more, Youngkin says that he's unable to speak much on the issue for fear of losing the independent voters he says he needs to win Virginia's gubernatorial contest in November.

"I'm gonna be really honest with you, the short answer is, in this campaign, I can't," Youngkin says after "Pete" asks him whether he plans to "take it to the abortionists."

"When I'm governor, and I have a majority in the House, we can start going on offense," he continues. "But as a campaign topic, sadly, that in fact won't win my independent votes that I have to get. So you'll never hear me support Planned Parenthood, what you'll hear me talk about is actually taking back the radical abortion policies that Virginians don't want."

In a separate video from The Undercurrent, shared with the American Independent, Youngkin again talks about his need to appeal to independent voters in order to win the gubernatorial race.

"We're going after those middle 1 million voters who are, sadly, gonna decide this — have decided elections for the last 10 to 12 years in Virginia, and they've moved a bit away from us," Youngkin tells a room of supporters. "We're going to get them. We just got back a whole bunch of data today, and we're winning this group. This is the group that we have to go get."

He continues, "What's most interesting in the dataset that comes back is the decisions, the issues, and the emotions of this group are nearly 100 percent aligned with Republicans. That's because the issues that are gonna decide this race are, first and foremost, the economy and jobs — 25 percent of these targeted folks say that that's their most important issue. Second issue: public safety. Third issue: schools. These are the issues that swing voters, these are the issues that Republicans are most focused on."

Both videos appear to have been taken at a June 17 fundraising event with the Loudoun County Republican Women's Club.

In a statement to the American Independent, a Youngkin spokesperson denied that the Virginia Republican was hiding his positions.

"This deceptively recorded audio demonstrates that Glenn Youngkin says the same thing no matter who he is talking to, and that Terry McAuliffe's allegations about him are false," the spokesperson said, referring to an original transcript of the video, in which Windsor appears to identify herself to Youngkin only as a "Michelle," which Windsor later said was her middle name.

Abortion rights advocate and former Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards, who is currently serving as co-chair of the left-leaning opposition research group American Bridge 21st Century, meanwhile, accused Youngkin of "tricking Virginians into thinking he's reasonable — when it's clear that he stands with Donald Trump and the extremists of the Republican Party." (The American Independent is funded in part by American Bridge.)

"This should terrify women who care about making their own health care decisions and doing what is best for their families," Richards said.

Republicans, for their part, have not won a gubernatorial contest in Virginia since 2009, and have lost every presidential contest in the state since 2008.

In 2020, President Joe Biden beat then-President Donald Trump in Virginia by 10 points, nearly doubling Hillary Clinton's 5.4-point win over Trump in 2016.

Youngkin has tried to pivot to a more moderate message in order to change his party's fortunes. However, his ties to Trump — who is unpopular in Virginia — may complicate things.

Shortly after Youngkin won the GOP nomination, Trump gave Youngkin a glowing endorsement, saying "Glenn is pro-Business, pro-Second Amendment, pro-Veterans, pro-America, he knows how to make Virginia's economy rip-roaring, and he has my Complete and Total Endorsement!"

Still, Youngkin cannot afford to lose Republican base voters in the state by moving too far to the middle.

The push and pull between appealing to both moderates and the GOP base is is the exact conundrum 2017 GOP nominee Ed Gillespie — once hailed for his more moderate Republican profile — had in the state.

Rather than court independent voters, Gillespie chose to go after the Trump-supporting base, running racist ads that voiced support for Trump's anti-immigrant platform. Gillespie went on to lose to now-Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam by 9 points.

Republicans are heavily targeting Virginia's gubernatorial election, hoping a win here could start a narrative that Republicans are on track to win majorities in the House and Senate in the 2022 midterm elections.

"This is going to be a test about whether or not a candidate can appeal to a Trump base in a nominating battle then pivot and win suburban voters. [Republicans] nominated someone who looks like he might have the capacity to do that," Virginia-based political analyst Bob Holsworth told the Los Angeles Times in May.

Youngkin is set to face off with McAuliffe, who is seeking a second, non-consecutive term, in November. In Virginia, governors can only serve four years in a row, and cannot run for another consecutive four years.

A poll from mid-June found McAuliffe with a 4-point lead over Youngkin.

The nonpartisan Cook Political Report rates the race a Lean Democratic contest.

Massive Democratic Turnout In Virginia Primary Bodes Ill For GOP

Reprinted with permission from American Independent

In Tuesday's Democratic gubernatorial primary in Virginia, former Gov. Terry McAuliffe won the nomination for his old job with at least 301,811 votes. A month ago, Republican Glenn Youngkin won his party's nomination with just 10,318.

McAuliffe got about 62 percent of the more than 485,000 votes cast in the primary. The turnout was not far below the record 2017 Democratic total of 542,858 votes fueled by an anti-Donald Trump wave in the state.

"With some more votes to count, VA Dem turnout last night is edging closer to 500k, which would only be down about 10 percent from the extraordinary turnout we saw in 2017 (and way up from 2005, 2009, 2013, etc.)," observed Lowell Feld, a Democratic strategist and founder of the Blue Virginia blog, on the blog's Twitter account. "That bodes VERY well for Dems this November!"

"You can put those 'questions about Dem enthusiasm' takes to bed," agreedAaron Fritschner, communications director for Rep. Don Beyer (D-VA).

The high Democratic turnout for McAuliffe and the Democrats is a stark contrast to last month's Republican nomination process. Rather than hold a primary, the state GOP opted to hold 40 unassembled caucuses across the state on May 8. Though more than 50,000 self-identified GOP voters registered to participate in that process, just 30,524 actually bothered to show up.

"The Republicans used a closed process relying on party insiders to choose their nominee at an in-person convention rather than having voting in a primary, and almost half of the people who registered as delegates for the convention didn't, uh, go," said Fritschner.

Youngkin, a wealthy businessman, was nominated with just 10,318 first-choice votes in the complicated voting process.

Larry Sabato, director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia, tweeted Tuesday night that Democratic results were not what the Republicans had hoped for.

"GOP wanted (1) @TerryMcAuliffe embarrassed with under 50%. In fact he's topping 60%. (2) A low-turnout primary. No exact % yet but turnout is clearly NOT low," he observed.

Youngkin will face an uphill battle against McAuliffe in the Democratic-trending state. Donald Trump lost Virginia to Joe Biden by more than 10 points last November.

After Trump endorsed him last month, Youngkin said he was "honored" to have his backing.

Sabato has predicted that Trump's endorsement will be the kiss of death in the November general election.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.