Published January 26, 2022
Democrats are right to be concerned that the upcoming midterm elections could be a disaster. A close look at the data from 2021 elections in Virginia and New Jersey suggest it could become a bloodbath — and there’s likely little individual candidates can do to avoid it.
President Biden carried both states by large margins in 2020. That made the Republican sweep of all three statewide offices and close call in New Jersey a shocking development. This was amplified by the GOP’s gain of seven seats in the Virginia House of Delegates, giving them control of the chamber. The party also gained seats in the New Jersey State Assembly and Republican gubernatorial nominee Jack Ciattarelli lost to Democrat Phil Murphy by only a little more than three points. In all, it was a terrible night for Team Blue.
These developments could be explained by local factors, such as Virginia Democratic gubernatorial nominee Terry McAuliffe’s debate gaffe in which he suggested parents shouldn’t have a say in their children’s education. But the weight of the evidence strongly suggests it was largely driven by antipathy to Biden and the national Democratic Party.
Henry Olsen is a Washington Post columnist and a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center.
Henry Olsen, a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, studies and provides commentary on American politics. His work focuses on how America’s political order is being upended by populist challenges, from the left and the right. He also studies populism’s impact in other democracies in the developed world.