Republicans pushed Democrats out of the Virginia governorship and had a far stronger-than-expected showing in heavily Democratic New Jersey on Wednesday, signalling trouble for President Joe Biden’s party heading into next year’s congressional elections.
Republican Glenn Youngkin, a former private equity executive, claimed victory over Democratic former governor Terry McAuliffe in Tuesday’s vote after distancing himself just enough from former President Donald Trump to win back moderates who had supported Biden just a year ago.
In New Jersey, Republican challenger Jack Ciattarelli performed far better than expected against incumbent Democrat Phil Murphy, even though registered Democratic voters outnumber Republicans there by more than 1 million.
Both saw strong gains in the suburbs from independent voters who had been turned off by Trump’s style of politics. The results in states that Biden won easily in 2020 suggested that Democrats’ razor-thin majorities Congress were highly vulnerable in the 2022 elections.
Republican control of both, or even one, chamber of Congress would give the party the ability to block Biden’s legislative agenda during the final two years of his current term in office.
The results could also further complicate Biden’s hopes of passing twin bills worth a combined $2.75 trillion to rebuild the nation’s roads and bridges, as well as bolster the social safety net and fight climate change. They have already been held up by months of infighting between Democrats’ progressive and moderate wings and the election defeat could leave some moderates less willing to back the big-ticket bills.
Youngkin, 54, declared victory after a campaign in which he focused on parents’ anger over schools’ handling of Covid-19, as well as teaching on race and gender issues. He walked a fine line on Trump, taking care to not alienate the former President’s hardcore base without offering a full-throated endorsement of his false claims about widespread election fraud.