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I'm a Florida woman by birth and at heart, but over the years, I've learned a lot about the Commonwealth of Virginia. I lived in Virginia during my first year out of college. I run a small business based in northern Virginia today.
I know Virginia's state flower and state tree are the dogwood because I have watched Aaron Sorkin's The American President far too many times.
(In the movie, President Shepherd is trying to send the Virginia state flower to his new love interest Sydney. It is the President's pollster, Leon Kodak, who informs everyone that a dogwood is both a flower and a tree, underscoring the fact that we pollsters are full of useful information. The president opts against sending Sydney a dozen dogwood trees and instead sends her a Virginia ham.)
And I have learned that every four years, Virginia's statewide elections will dominate the American political conversation like nothing else.
Part of this is location; Virginia contain's DC's media market, so Washingtonians and political reporters get to see all manner of political TV ads during their live sports in a way they might not for any other state. But part is because Virginia's election results are considered by many to be a sign of the shape of things to come and our first glimpse at the new political environment we are in now that the dust has settled from the previous presidential election.
In reality, Virginia's results have a so-so track record of predicting the next midterm. In 2009, Republican Bob McDonnell's blowout victory foreshadowed the 2010 Republican wave. In 2017, Democrat Ralph Northam's sizable win was a hint of the "Blue Wave" to come in 2018. But in 2013, Democratic candidate Terry McAuliffe's victory didn't foreshadow much of anything; Republicans had a great midterm election nationally in 2014 and Republican Ed Gillespie came within less than a point of unseating Democratic Sen. Mark Warner.
But for a variety of structural and historical reasons, Republicans are already feeling good about the 2022 midterms, and the polling averages leading up to tomorrow's election have Republican candidate Glenn Youngkin in a slight lead.
This has represented a big turn of fortunes for Youngkin and his opponent, former Governor Terry McAuliffe. Two months ago, McAuliffe led the race by five points. Democrats are facing some tough headwinds nationally that are certainly playing a role. President Biden's job approval took a hit toward the end of the summer and now overs in the low forties.
It isn't just about Biden, it's that Republicans broadly are becoming more trusted than Democrats on key issues nationally. The latest NBC News poll shows Republicans with double-digit margins on the question of "which party do you think would do a better job" on issues ranging from the economy and inflation to border security and immigration as well as crime.
So what to look for tomorrow night? For the last few weeks, I've been naming two counties as the places I'll be most closely following returns: Loudoun and Henrico Counties. Loudoun is an upscale exurban county in lovely Virginia horse and wine country, and has been at the epicenter of many of Virginia's recent battles over schools. Plenty has been written about Loudoun and I'll point your attention to the good folks at Axios for more, but the long story short is that Loudoun used to be relatively Republican terrain before becoming deep blue over the last decade.
But there's a chance that because Loudoun has been right in the middle of *gestures hands around wildly* all of this that I wanted to find another large county with a similar story to tell in terms of its voting history, and for me, Henrico is it.
Henrico County is the suburbs outside of Richmond, a place that is host to NASCAR races but also a place broke for Biden by a lot. And Henrico is really, really good at picking winners. I put together a chart of the Republican margin of victory (or defeat) in Henrico in every presidential and gubernatorial since 2000, and the track record is remarkable.
If you want to track Virginia's journey from a mostly Republican-ish state during the Bush era to where we are now, Henrico's data tells that story. Of course, because of the GOP's declines in the suburbs more generally over the last few elections, Henrico is now significantly more Democratic than Virginia overall. (Biden won Virginia by a 10-point margin.)
Tomorrow night, if you are refreshing election result pages frequently, remember this: Glenn Youngkin does not need to win Henrico County in order to win the Governor's race. He could very well break Henrico's winning streak here. But if Youngkin is even able to keep his losses minimized in a place like Henrico, it's going to be a very interesting night.
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People around the world think America's military, tech, academic, and entertainment sectors are above average compared to other developed nations, but aren't so sure about our quality of life - and really aren't fans of our health care system. (Pew)
Normally "the economy and jobs" are linked as issues. But new data shows that while people think the job market is great, the economy is nevertheless out of whack. (Gallup)
Each month, the Kaiser Family Foundation rolls out fresh polling on COVID-19 and vaccines. Their latest research focuses on how parents feel about vaccinating their children, and finds just over a quarter of parents of kids aged 5-11 say they'll have their child get the shot right away once it becomes available to them. Another third are "wait and see" with the remainder leaning against it. (KFF)
Last week, my firm rolled out a new poll on the issue of race in education on behalf of PIE Network. There will be more to unpack from this after the Virginia results are in, surely, but in the meantime, take a peek at our data that finds perhaps a surprising level of bipartisan consensus around things like adding more diverse authors to school curriculum and teaching children about terrible things that have happened in America's past. (Echelon Insights)