Election Day 2021: What to Watch For
It's November 2nd; Election Day 2021 is here. Can Republicans rebound from losses of the Senate and Presidency in the 2020 cycle? Today will set the tone for the important 2022 midterm season.
Virginia Governor Race
Virginia voters have the option to vote for a familiar face in Terry McAuliffe (D) when he faces Republican businessman Glenn Youngkin in the highly anticipated Virginia Governor's election on November 2nd. This is the first major general election since Democrats Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff clinched a Democratic Trifecta in early January and will set the tone for the important 2022 midterm season. McAuliffe aims to be the first politician in Virginia history to serve two non-consecutive terms as governor, having served his first term from 2014-2018. Youngkin has run his campaign appealing to conservative voters who are worried about the rise of the "radical left," painting himself as the first step to stop a complete takeover of America by progressives. The issue of critical race theory has been at the forefront of this election; Youngkin has risen in polls over the past few weeks, viciously attacking McAuliffe for hoping to "minimize" the role of parents in their children's educations. News broke on October 22nd that McAuliffe pardoned Ralph Northam's (D-VA) blackface usage as a "youthful mistake," and will likely cause him to slide even further in polling before the election. Youngkin has attempted to distance himself from the far right, admitting that Biden lawfully won the 2020 presidential election and condemning the January 6th insurrection at the Capitol. McAuliffe has fired back by trying to tie Youngkin to Trump, even airing an ad in suburban counties featuring Trump's endorsement of Youngkin. Our model had this race as a near dead-heat, as Youngkin clings to a slim advantage. McAuliffe was considered the favorite through the vast majority of the election cycle, and only 10 days ago, our model gave him a 59.3% chance to win the election. He has plummeted in recent polling, however, and now Youngkin holds a slight lead. Our model expects him to win a close race heading into election day. A Youngkin victory would be huge for the GOP as the party looks to bounce back from major losses in the 2020 general elections. Similar to Doug Jones’ victory in 2017, a Youngkin victory could help increase optimism for national Republicans and drive excitement up before the 2018 midterms. Youngkin has run nearly a perfect campaign and has given Republicans an example for how to compete and possibly win races in purple areas in a post-insurrection world. Our model heading into Election Day morning gives Youngkin a 57.0% chance to win and expects him to win 49.9% of the vote compared to 48.6% for McAuliffe. The Virginia House of Delegates is also up for election. Democrats expected to hold the House of Delegates, but as the race for governor has closed, the House of Delegates race has moved to be roughly a tossup. The Veritium Team expects the House of Delegates' race to run slightly left of the Governor's Race. Although this election is important, it will not affect the national House of Representatives redistricting for the 2022 midterm cycle; the map is determined by an independent commission.
Race Rating: Tilt R
What To Watch For: In 2020, Joe Biden won Fairfax County by 41.9% (31.8% more than what he won the state by) and won Loudoun County by 25.0% (14.9% more than what he won the state by). Youngkin made a serious play for Suburban Romney-Clinton-Biden voters who were turned off by Trump. Can he improve in the suburbs relative to his showing in the rest of the state? Suburbs will decide the governor’s race in 2021 and heavily influence Republican success down the road.
New Jersey Governor Race
The New Jersey Governor race is certainly the undercard event of the 2021 election cycle, but it's tracking to be a much closer election than Democrats expected. Incumbent governor Phil Murphy was elected in 2017 by a margin of 17 points, and Joe Biden carried New Jersey by a similar margin in 2020. There is some evidence of a marginally competitive race, however, as Republican challenger Jack Ciaterelli is polling significantly better than expected. Murphy is having his progressive politics tested at the state level, as Ciaterelli is primarily focusing his campaign on New Jersey's high tax rates. He argues the tax rates are suffocating small businesses in New Jersey and causing residents to move out. It would still certainly be a surprising upset if Ciaterelli were to pull out of the race, but our model still expects Murphy to comfortably win. Ciaterelli had his hoped buoyed great Emerson and Trafalgar poll results, only losing by 4 points in each (Trafalgar is a Republican polling agency). He has generally polled down in the high single digits range. Our model gives Murphy a 90.1% chance to win and expects him to receive 53.5% of the vote compared to 45.3% for Ciaterelli. A Ciaterelli win would be one of the most surprising general election results of the decade, but even losing by 5 points or less would be a shock for Democrats and a sign of good things to come for Republicans in the 2022 midterm cycle. The New Jersey Legislature and Senate are also up for election, and Democrats are expected to comfortably hold both.
Race Rating: Solid D
What To Watch For: What will the final margin of this race be? Will an incumbent Democrat be able to defeat a Republican challenger caught at a “Stop the Steal” rally by a considerable margin? In an ideal world for Democrats, Murphy should be winning this race by double digits; anything below 7 points paired with a defeat in Virginia will set alarm bells off for Democrats.
Minneapolis “Defund the Police” Vote
The most interesting voter proposition on any ballot is Minneapolis’ vote to defund the police. “Defund the Police” is extremely unpopular among voters nationwide, but Minneapolis is a left-wing city energized by George Floyd’s murder in the Summer of 2020. Political figures in Minnesota are split; progressive such as Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) generally endorsed the measure and moderates such as Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) are generally against the measure. A poll showed that 49% of voters supported the measure (with 41% of people against it), but the public is still skeptical of the chances that this proposition passes (PredictIt bettors only give a 31% chance that Minneapolis Defunds the Police as of November 1st). White voters actually are (surprisingly to some) significantly more likely to vote to “Defund the Police'' than Black voters, according to polling (only 17% of Black Minneapolitans want to see the size of the police department reduced). Results will show the nation whether voters are really going to follow through and enact policies that align with progressive social rhetoric, and could determine what the next ten years look like for the Democratic Party.
Michelle Wu and Eric Adams are expected to become the next mayors of Boston and New York City, respectively, this evening. Wu is slated to become the first Asian-American mayor of a major city outside of California and Texas, and the first person who is not a white male to be elected as Boston Mayor. Other cities such as Seattle, Atlanta, Cleveland, and Buffalo have more contested mayoral elections.