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Thursday, June 17, 2021

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

The Washington Post’s editorial page—which hasn’t endorsed a Republican for governor of Virginia since it began endorsing candidates in 1976—seems to find glee in noting that no GOP nominee for statewide office in Virginia has won election since 2009.

While that’s not untrue, that Democratic talking point requires two enormous asterisks.


First, Ken Cuccinelli, the Republican nominee for governor in 2013, likely would have defeated Democrat Terry McAuliffe (who’s now running for a second, nonconsecutive term) had disgruntled Republican-turned-Libertarian Robert Sarvis not run a third-party spoiler campaign. Mr. Sarvis drew 146,084 votes, 6.52% of the total, in a race that saw Mr. McAuliffe beat Mr. Cuccinelli, then the state’s attorney general, by 56,435 votes.

Second, that apparently wasn’t score-settling enough for Mr. Sarvis, who in 2014 ran again, effectively saving Democrat Mark Warner’s Senate seat from GOP challenger Ed Gillespie. Mr. Sarvis drew 53,102 votes, far in excess of Mr. Warner’s winning margin of just 17,727.

Still, to have any chance of ending the GOP dry spell and slamming the brakes on Virginia’s leftward lurch of the past seven-plus years (and especially the past 17 months), it was imperative that Virginia Republicans nominate the strongest possible candidate for governor for the November ballot. They did that by tapping Glenn Youngkin, a first-time candidate and an outsider.

In the debates that preceded the May 8 drive-through GOP “convention” at which he won the party’s nod, Mr. Youngkin stood head and shoulders above the other six contenders—and not just because the former Carlyle Group CEO is an NBA-caliber 6-foot-7.

Mr. Youngkin, 54, is telegenic and articulate (both essential for modern media-driven campaigns) and is right (in both senses of the word) on the issues.

He was also one of just two of the seven GOP candidates who sought the nomination to do mass mailings to Republican voters ahead of the convention. That suggested his campaign was—and will be—well-financed.

That will be crucial, because the one thing that Mr. McAuliffe—who won the Democratic primary on June 8, a month to the day after the GOP tapped Mr. Youngkin—is very, very good at is raising money. According to figures compiled by the Virginia Public Access Project, Mr. McAuliffe raised and spent

$38,003,836 in 2013, compared with Mr. Cuccinelli’s $20,942,496.

As such, the GOP nominee needed to be able to raise buckets of money, too, to be competitive. Mr. Youngkin has a personal net worth estimated at $250 million, and he appears prepared to spend a lot of his own money on the campaign.

Unlike in 2013, Mr. McAuliffe won’t have a 2-to-1 spending advantage this time around. Nor will he have a third-party spoiler to help push him across the finish line. The latter is reflected in a pair of preliminary polls that show the Virginia governor’s race is already neck-and-neck. Onward to November.


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