Published October 20, 2021
Republicans are salivating over the chance that businessman Glenn Youngkin can win the Virginia’s governor race. They should also be salivating over the campaign platform and messaging that’s making his potential upset possible.
Virginia has become a Democratic-leaning state in the past decade. President Biden defeated Donald Trump there by 10 points in 2020, and no Republican has won any statewide office since 2009. Democrats took control of the state House and Senate in 2019, giving them complete control over state government for the first time in decades. When Democrats nominated former governor Terry McAuliffe, a historically prodigious fundraiser, most analysts figured the party would extend its newfound domination over Virginia politics.
Youngkin, a former executive with the Carlyle Group, has confounded those expectations by running an unexpected campaign. He hasn’t quite run away from the hard-line conservative positions favored by the Republican base, but he hasn’t embraced them either. Instead, he’s focused on a mix of new programs that sounds different from traditional Republican pablum.
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.