Election Day 2021: What Went Down
Updated: Nov 7, 2021
Virginia Governor Race
Predicted Result: Youngkin wins by 1.3 points, 49.9% to 48.6%.
Actual Result: Youngkin wins by 2.1 points, 50.7% to 48.6%
What Went Down: Glenn Youngkin turned back the clock for Republicans in Virginia, winning the gubernatorial election by holding strong in the DC suburbs and running up the margin in western and southern Virginia. He outperformed Trump throughout all of Virginia, turning a 10 point loss just a year ago into a narrow win. Youngkin closed extremely strongly in polling, gaining a 17% chance to win in our model in the final 10 days before the election. Youngkin carried this momentum into election day, and Republicans' best-case scenario occurred around the state. Youngkin’s win was fueled both by a turnout advantage and by winning voters who chose to vote for Biden just a year ago. He was able to toe the line between embracing Trump and distancing himself from him, managing to win 95% of voters who voted for Trump in 2020 as well as 17% of voters who said they disapproved of Trump. Youngkin especially excelled relative to Trump in the suburbs: Trump lost Virginia by 10 points in 2020, and Youngkin swung Loudoun County by 14 points and Fairfax County by 12 points. Youngkin also swung most red leading counties in the middle of the state by roughly that margin, though, so it’s poor reporting to say that Youngkin’s victory is wholly based upon success in the suburbs. Youngkin only swung the most Republican Counties in the Appalachian Region by 5-10 points. The Veritium Insights Team estimates that if turnout numbers were those of 2020 and vote share numbers those of 2021, McAuliffe still would have still defeated Youngkin by 4 points. But Republican voters turned out at a higher rate than Democratic voters. Exit polls indicate that Biden only won the 2021 Virginia electorate by 4%, rather than the 10% margin Biden held in 2020. Virginia Republicans also flipped the Virginia General Assembly, the Lieutenant Governor’s office, and the Attorney’s General office from Democratic control. McAuliffe was outrun by the Democrat’s Lieutenant Governor and Attorney General candidates, meaning there is certainly some evidence he dragged all Democrats down in the state.
What This Means: Democrats got crushed across the state, both because voters defected from Biden to Youngkin and because Biden voters were less likely to vote at all. Democrats have major messaging issues. On their first Election Day without Trump in office or on the ballot in six years, Democratic voters did not turn out. Democrats lost 6 points alone in Virginia from a lack of turnout; a 6 point movement towards Trump in 2020 would have netted him 31 states and 311 electoral votes. At this point, Republicans certainly are favored to flip both the House and Senate in 2022. Democrats will have to figure out how they can flip momentum within the next year, and it probably starts and ends with passing useful legislation before they lose control of at least one or both of the chambers. In 2021, Republicans were united in their passion to oppose “woke” culture, most notably in schools through banning Critical Race Theory. Democrats united themselves over the past four years through complete opposition to one man, and now they have to figure out how to create passion to get their voters to come out in the post-Trump era.
New Jersey Governor Race
Predicted Result: Murphy wins by 8.2 points, 53.5% to 45.3%.
Actual Result: Murphy ahead by 2.6 points, 50.9% to 48.3%. Votes are still in the process of being counted at publication time. The final margin is likely to end up at closer to 3 points.
What Went Down: New Jersey Democrats are reeling after losing the governorship and half of their margin in the State Senate. Murphy never looked like he was truly in danger, but he did not take the lead until the vote was 86% reporting. The largest upset of the night was that of the Democratic President of the New Jersey Senate, Steve Sweeney, who was upset by Republican truck driver Edward Durr. Durr barely campaign and spent less than $10,000. Sweeney won re-election by 17% only 4 years ago. Polling missed by a large margin in the governor’s race, largely because of Democratic voters’ complete failure to turn out. Votes are still being counted from Democratic areas, but these areas will surely compose a much smaller portion of votes in the state than a year ago.
What This Means: If the results in Virginia were worrisome for Democrats, results in New Jersey were close to catastrophic. Democrats could rationalize the result in Virginia by saying that McAuliffe was a bad candidate and Youngkin was a strong one who perfectly navigated the situation surrounding Trump and the insurrection. But Ciattarelli was sighted at a “stop the steal” rally while Murphy was a popular incumbent who won election by 17 points only 4 years ago. Democratic voters did not vote at expected rates, but many of the Biden voters who did vote were more concerned about Murphy’s high taxes than Ciattarelli’s connection to Trump. Democrats have serious reckoning to do before the 2022 midterms, or they are sure to lose both the Senate and the House. Best case for Democrats, these huge losses may serve as a wake-up call for the party.
Minneapolis “Defund the Police” Vote
Public Odds (PredictIt): 13% that Minneapolis “Defunds the Police” at time of polls closing.
Actual Result: Failed, 56%-44%
Minneapolis voters rejected “Question 2” to choose to “defund the police” by a solid but not overwhelming margin. Considering popular figures such as Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) and Attorney General Keith Ellison (D-MN) backed this measure, this is a tough loss for leftist activists to stomach. At this point, it is evident there is no majority backing for policies that call for the complete abolition of police forces, even in America’s most liberal cities. Eric Adams’ nomination for mayor earlier this year in New York City was a major rebuke to the movement, but this result makes it clear there is not enough public support for any leftist policing policies to be implemented, even among Democrats. Incumbent mayor Jacob Frey was also re-elected. Frey defeated two left-wing activists after telling voters that he was against “Question 2.”
Other Mayoral Elections
The most high-profile mayoral election results were extremely unsurprising. Eric Adams and Michelle Wu won extremely easy victories in New York City and Boston, respectively. Wu became Boston’s first elected mayor who was not a white man and will become the first Asian-American woman to govern a major city outside of Texas or California. The most intriguing mayoral election of the night took place in Buffalo, New York. A Democratic Socialist, India Walton, won a low turnout Democratic Primary earlier this year. The more moderate incumbent mayor, Byron Brown, launched a write-in campaign to defeat Walton as an independent. Walton won endorsements of many major Democratic officials, including Chuck Schumer, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Kirsten Gillibrand, Bernie Sanders, and Elizabeth Warren. Brown led by a considerable margin in every poll, but pundits were still unsure about whether he would end up winning because of the logistical difficulties of a write-in campaign. Brown ended up winning the election by 17 points, another major loss for progressives.
Editor’s Note: This article will continue to be updated as votes are counted.