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Why is the result of Virginia’s governor election a big deal for President Joe Biden?

Joe Biden

It’s been a while since we have spoken about U.S. politics, but today we are turning our attention to the Virginia governor (gubernatorial) election. The result of this specific election was important, especially for President Joe Biden. But why is the result a big deal? 

What happened? 

Yesterday’s election in Virginia was between Democratic candidate Terry McAuliffe and Republican candidate Glenn Youngkin. 

The current incumbent Governor is Democratic Governor Ralph Northam. He, however, was ineligible to run again in the election as the Constitution of Virginia prohibits governors from serving consecutive terms, meaning a new Democratic candidate (McAuliffe) was on the ballot instead. 

The voter turnout for this election was huge, with millions of Virginian voters (we don’t have an official number) turning out in the non-compulsory election. 

President Joe Biden backed the Democratic candidate with confidence, telling reporters just days before the election, “we’re going to win. I think we’re going to win in Virginia.”

However, this is not what happened at all. 

Republican candidate Youngkin significantly overperformed in the polls, pulling a surprise victory. 

This result is seen as a huge blow for the Biden Administration, but why? 

The results will play into the Republican Party’s messaging and battle plans for next year’s midterm elections. 

Wait. What are the midterm elections? 

The House of Representatives in the U.S. only has two-year terms, so every two years there are House elections. As the presidential term last four years, these house elections fall in the middle of the presidential term (as well as the presidential election year). The President’s role, however, remains unchanged (so Biden himself is safe for now).  

The Biden Administration only holds majorities in Congress by thin margins. Seeing the success of Youngkin’s campaign could provide scope for Republicans to win back moderate voters that were lost in last year’s presidential election. 

On top of this, Biden’s approval rating (currently 42.8%) has fallen, and is quite low. To put it in perspective: Yesterday, President Joe Biden was on his 287th day of being President. According to FiveThirtyEight approval rating data, the only other U.S. presidents to have a lower approval rating at the exact same point in their presidencies (since 1945) were Donald Trump and Gerald Ford. 

What does that all mean? The midterms will be very interesting next year.

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