Republican Party of Virginia Chairman Rich Anderson says that he believes the energy on the ground for his party is greater than it was in 2009, the last time Virginia Republicans won a statewide race. Joe Biden won by 10-points in Virginia last year.
“I do believe that we are going to have a clean sweep,” Anderson said in an interview Monday. “It feels very similar to 2009 and it was in 2009 that I was elected to the House of Delegates along with a substantially large freshman class. That was year one of the Obama presidency — Republicans were fired up and turned out.”
The comparison is noteworthy due to Virginia’s historical nature of electing a governor that is from the party that is opposite of the one in control of the White House. Terry McAuliffe broke that trend when he narrowly defeated Ken Cuccinelli in 2013 to earn his first term as governor.
McAuliffe is now seeking to do the same thing eight years later. His Republican opponent, Glenn Youngkin, is trying to unite his own party as one against McAuliffe and Democratic control in the General Assembly.
Polling is showing a tight race this year and Republicans say they are seeing a swell of enthusiasm on the ground. “I am seeing this tremendous enthusiasm,” Anderson said noting that he has watched since the early summer as the crowd size, enthusiasm, energy, and engagement have grown to be “literally off the charts.”
But a ten-point deficit from one year ago is quite the hill to climb for Republicans to put themselves in a position to win this November. “I am a state party chairman so I am not going to say it doesn’t worry me – it is something to be considered and factored,” Anderson said about the 10-point difference. “What we can do is focus on the future. I am not too fixated on last year.”
Biden’s job approval rating has dropped in recent months perhaps giving Youngkin and Virginia Republicans an extra boost. Virginia’s gubernatorial election years always immediately follow presidential election years making it a nationalized race as the country looks for a quantitive assessment of the president’s first year in office. Democrats flipped 15 seats in the House of Delegates in 2017, the year after Trump was elected, for example.
Video from a recent event shows McAuliffe talking to other Democrats about Biden’s drop in popularity making it harder for Virginia Democrats in the final weeks of this election. McAuliffe has since cleaned that up a bit saying Biden is not a drag on the ticket.
Anderson, on the other hand, said that he believes Biden is hurting Virginia Democrats, noting that the President has not come to Virginia for McAuliffe since the mid-summer.
“I think he is and I’m just speaking pragmatically now,” Anderson said Monday. “You can obviously feel that there is a certain erosion and that may have an adverse impact on McAuliffe and his running mates.”
It was announced Monday that First Lady Dr. Jill Biden will be campaigning with McAuliffe on Friday in Henrico County, however.
But even with a Democratic president struggling with his popularity, Republicans are unlikely to win without a huge showing at the ballot box. All factions of the party must stay united to win and Anderson believes that his party realizes this. Even after a contentious nomination process and a faction of the party not accepting the 2020 election results, they seemed to be united behind the idea of defeating the Democrats.
Youngkin himself has said several times that Biden is the legitimate president, but members of his party like state Sen. Amanda Chase are still pushing for a forensic audit of the 2020 election results. Chase received 21% of the first-round votes in the nomination convention last May, compared to Youngkin’s 31%.
Chase ran on a platform of overturning the 2020 election results, often referring to herself as ‘Trump in Heels.” Youngkin on the other hand has walked the line by expressing support for auditing voting machines and requiring photo ID to vote, but he has kept Trump at a distance and never cast doubt on the 2020 election results.
Anderson says he was expecting to have to work much harder to unite both of those factions of the party, but they seem to have united on their own.
“To be quite honest, in the early days as party chair, even before we nominated these candidates, I was concerned that the party would be divided over that very issue,” Anderson said. “But what I have seen is individuals in the party come together in an unprecedented way. We have a common adversary – meaning the Democratic Party and its candidates.”
Governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general, and all 100 House seats are on the ballot this November.
Election day is Nov. 2.
Listen to Anderson’s full interview with Virginia Scope below:
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