Opinion: Republicans have a path to victory in 2023 elections – The Virginian-Pilot

Gov. Glenn Youngkin hypes up the crowd during a rally for Yesli Vega at Gourmeltz in Spotsylvania County on Oct. 17. (Tristan Lorei/The Free Lance-Star via AP) (Tristan Lorei/AP)
Michael Clancy is a lawyer, political commentator and former Republican congressional candidate. He lives in Northern Virginia. (HANDOUT)
As legislators gather for this year’s session of the Virginia General Assembly, Democrats hold a slight majority in the Senate and Republicans hold a corresponding slight advantage in the House of Delegates. In November, all 100 delegate seats and 40 Senate seats in newly drawn districts will be on the ballot as Gov. Glenn Youngkin and Republicans seek to win control of the General Assembly. The results from the 2022 Congressional races suggest that will be a difficult challenge unless the Republicans can drive a message that resonates with moderate and independent voters.
In 2021, Youngkin stunned the Democrats by winning election just one year after Joe Biden bested Donald Trump in Virginia by 10% and more than 450,000 votes. Riding the wave of that victory, Republicans were energized heading into the 2022 midterm congressional elections with the ambitious goal of defeating the Democratic incumbents in the 2nd, 7th and 10th congressional districts. That Youngkin momentum from 2021 waned, however, in 2022. Overall Youngkin won 50.6% of the vote in 2021. In total, across all congressional districts, Democrats flipped that advantage, winning 51.7% of the vote overall in 2022.
The results in the 7th and 10th were likewise disappointing for Republicans. While Republican state Sen. Jen Kiggans won in the 2nd, Democratic incumbents Abigail Spanberger and Jennifer Wexton won reelection in the 7th and 10th respectively, despite well financed, energetic campaigns by the Republican candidates.
Youngkin won 52% of the vote in the 7th Congressional District in 2021. Yet Spanberger reversed that result and won reelection with 52% of the vote, a net gain of 4% for the Democrats.
In the 10th Congressional District, Wexton won with 53% of the vote; and in Loudoun County — the epicenter of the national parents’ movement — Wexton won by more than 15 points with 57.75% of the vote.
Applying these midterm results to the new state Senate and House districts, VPAP’s data analysis shows that for the 40 Senate districts Democrats have at least a 5-point advantage in 21 districts (15 of those are Democrats +20 points) with three toss-up districts. For the 100 House districts, Democrats hold at least a 5-point advantage in 50 districts (39 of those are Democrats +20 points) with 10 toss-up districts. This data portends an intense battle to control the General Assembly with an advantage to the Democrats.
So how does the Republican Party regain that Youngkin mojo that led to victory in 2021?
First, the party needs to align with their leader — Gov. Youngkin — and be unified in its message and temper any internecine fighting. Certainly, the Democrats will be unified to stifle the governor’s agenda.
Second, Republican candidates need to double-down on Youngkin’s winning agenda on making Virginia the best place to live, work and raise a family — focusing on economic and workforce development, reducing taxes for families, and strengthening law enforcement and public safety. Families continue to endure inflation outpacing wages by a large margin and high mortgage rates. Republicans need to lead the way to help families and businesses navigate the volatile economy.
Third, Republicans must maintain their intense focus on education. This includes ensuring — as the U.S. Supreme Court has repeatedly ruled — that parents, not teachers or school boards, are the ultimate decision makers for their children’s psychological and physical health; a robust program for school choice; and a renewed focus on academics and merit-based education that promotes student achievement.
The electoral map looks challenging for Republicans in 2023. Candidates seizing the governor’s aggressive economic, budget, and education initiatives can win those moderate and independent voters that will — as in 2021 — be critical for victory in 2023.
Michael Clancy is a lawyer, political commentator and former Republican congressional candidate. He lives in Northern Virginia.
Copyright © 2023, The Virginian-Pilot
Copyright © 2023, The Virginian-Pilot

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