Youngkin’s winning formula: Trump voters plus suburbs

Nov 3, 2021, 1:52 PM | Updated: 9:27 pm

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — When Virginia Republicans nominated Glenn Youngkin as their candidate for governor, they wondered whether the first-time candidate could master a high-level political maneuver — appealing to educated suburbanites without dampening the enthusiasm of white, rural voters who came out in droves to vote for Donald Trump.

On Wednesday, it became clear just how well Youngkin pulled it off.

The former private equity executive became the first Republican candidate to win statewide since 2009, thanks to a campaign that rallied right-leaning voters both in the growing suburbs in the north and the shrinking towns of Appalachia. That turnout helped Youngkin chip away at parts of the Democrats’ coalition and give Republicans hope for a 2022 comeback.

“There’s no doubt now that someone not named Trump can recreate the Trump coalition — and make gains among suburban voters,” said Patrick Ruffini, a Republican data analyst in Washington. “It means a lot of states are in play.”

The performance could be a road map for GOP electoral dominance in next year’s election, when Democrats’ control of the House and Senate is on the line. Republicans lost ground in educated suburbs across the country during Trump’s tenure, while supercharging support in rural areas. After Trump left office, Democrats braced for the possibility the GOP could regain some support, but doubted it could continue to maintain such enormous rural margins.

Youngkin proved them wrong. In tiny, rural Lee County at the southwestern edge of Virginia, where Trump won 84% of the vote last year, Youngkin managed to improve that margins. He won Lee County with 87.6% of the vote.

On the opposite end of the state and the political spectrum, densely-populated Fairfax County was also a bright spot for Youngkin. Turnout in the county just across the Potomac River from Washington was sky-high for an off-year election, and Democrat Terry McAuliffe won with 65% of the vote. Yet Youngkin won 35% and improved on Trump’s 70%-29% loss there last year.

“It wasn’t one or the other — he did both,” said Tucker Martin, a longtime GOP consultant who has worked on several Virginia governor’s races. “And it’s been a while since we’ve seen a Republican able to do that in Virginia.”

McAuliffe, who was previously in office from 2014 to 2018, conceded Wednesday morning in a statement that congratulated Youngkin. While votes were still coming in, the Republican had a more than 2 percentage point lead.

A spokeswoman, Christina Freundlich, said the McAuliffe campaign “felt good” about its performance in blue-leaning areas, but that wasn’t enough to win. She pinned the outcome on headwinds from Washington, saying the national political environment led to rural areas “extremely energized in the face of the Biden presidency.”

Fifty-three percent of Virginia voters disapprove of Biden’s job performance, while 47% approve, according to AP VoteCast, a survey of the electorate.

Virginia, with its unusual off-year elections, has a long history of choosing governors from the party that does not occupy the White House, and Freundlich said the campaign had been expecting something of a pendulum swing.

“It just swung harder than we had expected,” she said.

Youngkin’s campaign targeted a wide swath of Virginia’s electorate, focusing on state and local issues. He steadfastly refused to disavow Trump but kept his distance from the ex-president on the stump. He seized on frustration with schools to connect with suburban voters beleaguered by pandemic closures. He aligned himself with conservative voters suspicious of racial justice and diversity curriculum in schools — sending what McAuliffe described as a “racist dog whistle.” For Virginians worried about inflation and a rising cost of living, he pitched an end to the state’s grocery tax and other substantial tax cuts.

The result was micro-improvements with a broad set of groups — rather than a spike of support in just one demographic.

According to AP VoteCast, voters 45 and older split evenly between Trump and Biden last year. This time they broke for Youngkin, 55%-45%. Last year, 61% of suburbanites in Virginia backed Biden and 37% backed Trump. A year later, Youngkin earned the support of 46% of suburbanites.

Youngkin was backed by 45% of college-educated voters in this year’s election; in 2020, 38% went for Trump. Youngkin also did somewhat better than Trump among white voters — both men and women. White voters made up 72% of the electorate and backed Youngkin over McAuliffe, 59% to 40%. In 2020, 52% of white voters backed Trump.

These inroads likely reflect the changes in who voted, rather than signs of a massive defection from Democrats. Just 5% of Biden voters voted for Youngkin — and a similar share of Trump voters switched to McAuliffe.

In his victory speech early Wednesday, Youngkin said his campaign “came from nowhere” and managed to bring together “neighbors, friends of all races, of all religions, of all ages, of all political ideologies.”

Youngkin’s broad improvements bolstered other Republicans on the ballot. Republican Winsome Sears made history as the first Black woman elected statewide as she won the lieutenant governor’s office. Completing a sweep of statewide races, Republican Jason Miyares was elected attorney general.

And in the statehouse, where Democrats made tremendous gains during the Trump administration, Republicans claimed to have retaken the majority in the House of Delegates. Several key races were also too early to call Wednesday afternoon, though Republicans had won at least 50 seats, ensuring at least a tie with Democrats.

Terry Kilgore, veteran member of the House who announced a bid for speaker Wednesday, said Youngkin won in large part because of his focus on rural areas other recent candidates had neglected in favor of bigger population centers. Kilgore noted Youngkin spent the Sunday before Election Day barnstorming through parts of the mountainous and economically beleaguered southwest Virginia he’s represented since 1994.

“I think that was the difference in last night’s election. … He showed up,” Kilgore said.


Riccardi reported from Denver. Associated Press writer Hannah Fingerhut in Washington contributed.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


FILE - People walk outside the U.S Capitol building in Washington, June 9, 2022. The biggest invest...
Associated Press

In Biden’s big bill: Climate, health care, deficit reduction

WASHINGTON (AP) — The biggest investment ever in the U.S. to fight climate change. A hard-fought cap on out-of-pocket prescription drug costs for seniors in the Medicare program. A new corporate minimum tax to ensure big businesses pay their share. And billions left over to pay down federal deficits. All told, the Democrats’ “Inflation Reduction […]
22 hours ago
A long line of voters wraps around the Sedgwick County Historic Courthouse in Wichita, Kan., on the...
Associated Press

Kansas abortion vote shows limits of GOP’s strength

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — An increase in turnout among Democrats and independents and a notable shift in Republican-leaning counties contributed to the overwhelming support of abortion rights last week in traditionally conservative Kansas, according to a detailed Associated Press analysis of the voting results. A proposed state constitutional amendment would have allowed the Republican-controlled Legislature […]
22 hours ago
The Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant, south of Los Osos, Calif., is viewed Sept. 20, 2005. The Cal...
Associated Press

Nuke or no nuke? California officials ponder nuclear future

LOS ANGELES (AP) — The California Legislature has less than three weeks to determine if it will take an extraordinary step and attempt to extend the life of California’s last operating nuclear plant, a decision that would be made amid looming questions over the cost and who would pay and earthquake safety risks. The legislative […]
22 hours ago
Election workers process mail-in ballots during a nearly all-mail primary election in Las Vegas, Ju...
Associated Press

Nevada officials offer regulations as hand-counts gain steam

RENO, Nev. (AP) — Hand-counting teams of four, not all from the same party. Table centers at least 10 feet apart. Ballots counted 20 at a time. Those are some of the regulations the Nevada secretary of state’s office is proposing for how counties can count paper ballots by hand amid a growing push for […]
22 hours ago
Associated Press

Today in History: August 12, deadliest single-aircraft crash

Today in History Today is Friday, Aug. 12, the 224th day of 2022. There are 141 days left in the year. Today’s Highlight in History: On Aug. 12, 1953, the Soviet Union conducted a secret test of its first hydrogen bomb. On this date: In 1867, President Andrew Johnson sparked a move to impeach him […]
22 hours ago
FILE - Samsung Electronics Co. Vice Chairman Lee Jae-yong gets out of a car at the Seoul High Court...
Associated Press

South Korea to pardon Samsung’s Lee, other corporate giants

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — South Korea’s president will pardon Samsung heir Lee Jae-yong with a year left on his sentence for bribing former President Park Guen-Hye as part of the massive corruption scandal that toppled Park’s government, the justice minister announced Friday. Lotte Group Chairman Shin Dong-bin and two other top business leaders will […]
22 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Here are 4 signs the HVAC unit needs to be replaced

Pool renovations and kitchen upgrades may seem enticing, but at the forefront of these investments arguably should be what residents use the most. In a state where summertime is sweltering, access to a functioning HVAC unit can be critical.
Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Most plumbing problems can be fixed with regular maintenance

Instead of waiting for a problem to happen, experts suggest getting a head start on your plumbing maintenance.

Best retirement savings rates hit 4.30%

Maximize your retirement savings with guaranteed fixed rates up to 4.30%. Did you know there is a financial product that can give you great interest rates as you build your retirement savings and provide you with a paycheck for life once you retire? It might sound too good to be true but it is not; this product is called an annuity.
Youngkin’s winning formula: Trump voters plus suburbs