By Frank Blechman
I have written before that electoral campaign strategies actually aren’t that complicated. I often quote long-time Fairfax County political sage Larry Byrne (husband and strategist of former State Senator and US Congresswoman Leslie Byrne) who said, “In all of human history, we have invented only two basic approaches: Throw the bums out or keep the bums in.” Stated more politely, the two strategies are, “Time for a change, or keep a good thing going.” This year, it appears that the choice is framing up as, “Stick with the old guy or seek something new.” However you say it, if you are the challenger, there is not much question which campaign strategy you will pick.
“In all of human history, we have invented only two basic approaches: Throw the bums out or keep the bums in.”
Glenn Youngkin, the multimillionaire self-financing Republican candidate for governor, is already all over the airwaves touting his humble beginnings with the opening line, “I’ll never forget the day my father told us he had lost his job.” He then talks about how he pitched in to help his family get by, worked hard to get a scholarship so he could go to college, and how his faith and his family got him through the hard times. He concludes with several lines about how Virginia needs new leadership (for example, him). He expects former Governor Terry McAuliffe to win the Democratic primary tomorrow, and is setting himself up as the new versus old comparison. And, not surprisingly, McAuliffe (after months of attacks on presumed GOP front-runner Amanda Chase) is now leading the “keep a good thing going” parade. For many pundits, the only remaining question is whether McAuliffe will get more than 50% of the primary vote.
Virginians in both parties seem willing to set aside ideologies and priorities to WIN.
The polling seems to show that pragmatic voters in both parties sense that this statewide election in Virginia will be an important test run for congressional races across the nation in 2022. Virginians in both parties seem willing to set aside ideologies and priorities to WIN. Youngkin spouted the red meat that he needed to say to get the Republican nomination, but has run straight to a centrist line starting the day after the nominating convention. Convention voters seem to be fine with that, if he can win. McAuliffe is not the fresh new diverse face the party faithful might have wanted, but he was reasonably popular as governor (2014-2018), is a seasoned and energetic campaigner, and strong fundraiser. Democratic voters hope he can win.
Of course, tomorrow’s primary could surprise us all. Early voting is much heavier than four years ago, but that doesn’t predict overall enthusiasm or involvement. More absentee-in-person votes have been cast than absentee-by-mail, a reversal of older patterns. Increased early turnout shows that voters like the eased early-voting procedures put in place last year and are taking that opportunity again.
November is still five months away. Results tomorrow will provide only the faintest suggestion of what the economic, political, or medical situation will be when voters cast their general election ballots.
Nonetheless, we faithful political junkies will open up windows on our computers about 9 pm tomorrow night to the state Board of Elections website (www.elections.virginia.gov) and the Virginia Public Access Project (www.vpap.org), then hit ‘refresh-refresh-refresh’ to get the latest results. By 10 pm we should be done with that. We can stop worrying about the primary and start focusing on the general election, the one that really matters.