Is this the beginning-of-the-end for Biden’s presidency?

Devyn Shea (TheLorian)

The 2021 elections are an indicator of what will happen in the next three years. It may seem strange, but politics is like a set of dominoes standing up in a line. When one falls the rest fall in a pattern or order. In 2017, Virginia and New Jersey had races for governor and the state legislature. This was supposed to be a test of Donald Trump’s popularity and would be an indicator of how he would do in the midterms, while the midterms themselves would be an indication of how good Trump’s reelection chances were. The 2017 governor races were a colossal failure for republicans. In New Jersey, the then incumbent lt. governor was running to succeed Chris Christie, the then highly unpopular (15% approval according to politico) incumbent republican governor. A former Obama official Phil Murphy was the democratic candidate and had won the election by double digits. 

Virginia was the one race the country had a laser focus on. Ed Gillespie, a former Bush official and RNC chair, was running against lt. Governor Ralph Northam. Virginia had traditionally been a swing state in 2008, 2012, and 2016. It had gone for George W. Bush in both his election and reelection by a comfortable margin, but the state had slowly evolved more democratic throughout the next decade. The 2017 Virginia governor race had both campaigns spending tens of millions of dollars. Realclearpolitics polling averages saw the race was close: 47% to 44% in favor of Northam and the democrats. On election day, the results were somewhat surprising. Ed Gillespie received roughly what the polls had him at, he received 45% of the vote. Ralph Northam received 54% of the vote, much more than the polls had him at. 

Now the same elections are coming up, but under different circumstances. These elections will be the first step in indicating whether or not democrats will hold onto power in 2024. The race is currently neck and neck. Virginia has a one consecutive term limit for governor. If a governor wishes to run for another election they must wait four years. Former Gov. Terry McAuliffe left office in 2018 and is now vying to return to the governor’s mansion. He left office with a good approval rating and a low disapproval rating. He is up against Glenn Younkin, a millionaire businessman who used to be CEO of The Carlyle Group. Currently President Biden has a national approval rating in the low 40s. In Virginia, according to a Roanoke College poll conducted last month, President Biden’s approval was sitting at 50%. Biden had won the state last year by ten percent (55%). Ralph Northam, the governor, had an approval in the mid 50s. These approvals aren’t terrible for Terry McAuliffe to surf off of. Polling, however, is much more frightening for the McAuliffe campaign. Glenn Younkin has been masterfully distancing himself from Trump and aligning McAuliffe with unpopular democratic policies and unpopular democratic president. McAuliffe is sitting at roughly 48% with Younkin at 46% according to fivethirtyeight’s polling averages.  

I believe, in light of everything, that McAuliffe will win. For starters, Biden is not unpopular enough in the state. McAuliffe’s successor, the incumbent governor, has a good approval rating. McAuliffe himself used to be a popular governor and figure in Virginia politics. The state also has been trending democratic over the past decade and republicans haven’t won a statewide election or a presidential race in the state since roughly 2009. Younkin also has not reached 50% or more in a single poll; McAuliffe has reached over 50% in a few polls. The polling and the state trends in Virginia leads me to believe that McAuliffe will probably win. If McAuliffe loses, however, this sets up the red carpet for Trump’s potential return in 2024. The only thing he would need next is a successful midterm showing and a good showing will help his chances in 2024. Next Tuesday will either be the beginning of the end for Joe Biden’s presidency or an indication that he and the democratic party aren’t going anywhere. I believe in the latter.

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