Democrats who are staring in disbelief at the election returns underscore exactly why they lost: They did not fully understand the state they’ve been governing.
Parties often understand why they’re about to lose. That does not appear to be the case here. I hesitate to say a party deserves to lose but the fact that so many Democrats are astonished by Glenn Youngkin’s victory in the governor’s race suggests they were out of touch with the Virginia electorate and might benefit from being chastened.
National commentators – who often know little about the state beyond the Beltway – will jump to a lot of conclusions, some of them perhaps even right, some of them not so much. President Joe Biden’s current unpopularity certainly hurt Democrats and helped Republicans, but this race was about much more than that. Biden alone did not sink Terry McAuliffe; McAuliffe helped himself do that. Put another way, McAuliffe could have overcome an unfavorable national climate for Democrats but he couldn’t overcome his own mistakes. And even that doesn’t fully explain the outcome.