The ‘perfect storm’ that may have tipped scales in Youngkin’s favor

Judy Woodruff provides an election night update in various races across the country, including the crucial gubernatorial races in Virginia, New Jersey and more. Jessica Taylor, senate and governors editor for The Cook Political Report, joins Woodruff with analysis on available exit polls, vote counts and what hot-button issues have dominated the race.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    Voters went to the polls today to cast ballots in contests across the country. Two of them governors' races in New Jersey and especially closely watched Virginia, where former governor Terry McAuliffe faces Republican Glenn Youngkin. At this hour, with 70 percent of precincts reporting, Youngkin is leading with 55.1 percent of the vote, while McAuliffe has 44.3 percent. And in the contest for governor of New Jersey, with only five percent of the vote in, incumbent Democrat Phil Murphy is ahead of Republican Jack Ciattarelli with 58 to 41 percent of the vote. Over to Ohio, where Democrats Shontel Brown has defeated Republican Laverne Gore in the special election to fill Democrat Marcia Fudge's old seat in the 11th Congressional District. Fudge stepped down in March to become President Biden's housing secretary. To explore all of this and more, I am joined by Jessica Taylor of the Cook Political Report. So hello, Jessica, thank you for being here. At this stage, let's talk about Virginia first. What are you seeing 70 percent of the vote in? That's a significant lead for Glenn Youngkin. What are you seeing?

  • Jessica Taylor, The Cook Political Report:

    It is a lot of northern Virginia, which is heavy. McAuliffe Territory has yet to report, but based on our projections at the Cook political report, Youngkin is exceeding targets that he needs there. He doesn't need to. We never expected him to win in those areas, but he's exceeding the benchmarks that we had where he needed to be. He's outrunning Donald Trump. 2020 results in very red counties, you know, further down south in the state. And so this is looks like a very good night for Republicans. And it might not just be Youngkin, but they are leading in the race for lieutenant governor, the race for attorney general, the State House of Delegates could flip as well. This would be the best night they've had in 12 years, the Republicans.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And again, this is a state that that President Biden won by, what, 10 percent points just last December. So a change in political flavor. So we have what we're calling exit polls. These are interviews done with voters as they were leaving the polling place. And Jessica, let's look first at suburban the suburban vote and compare it to what we saw in just last November. Terry McAuliffe 47 percent of the suburban vote to Youngkin's Fifty three percent.

  • Jessica Taylor:

    This is almost reversed from just a year ago, when Biden got 53 percent of the vote and Trump got forty five in the suburbs. We're seeing a higher percentage there of suburban voters turning out. This is where Republicans and Democrats told me the race was going to be won or lost, and it really looks like it has been. Youngkin was really campaigning heavily in some of these suburban counties exurban counties, Loudoun County. It was sort of the critical county, perhaps with a lot of tensions over the school board and what's being taught in schools there.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And I wanted to ask you about that because education and we're not showing the numbers here. But but we saw throughout the afternoon in watching Moore exit polls a number of what is it? Education came in second as or maybe it ended up being first as the issue people put as as a something that was important to them in casting their vote.

  • Jessica Taylor:

    Yeah, it was right up there with the economy and COVID that, you know, I think a month or two ago would have been the number one in voters minds and education again, an issue that Democrats usually run very well on, but one that young man had driven home as such a key issue for him. And again, I think it all goes back to that final debate where Terry McAuliffe made what was maybe, you know, the fatal error, perhaps saying that parents shouldn't be telling schools what to teach. He waited to walk that, but he never really walked back. He waited to release a response ad. Republicans were very quick to the drawing. You know, here in northern Virginia and the D.C. media market, you couldn't watch television for more than 10 minutes without seeing that on air.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    There was a lot of there was a lot of reporting around young kids use of this critical race theory, which is something's taught in colleges and universities. He was saying he never would want to see it taught in the Virginia Public Schools K through 12. It's not taught there now. But he made it an issue, and he made it one successfully, even though it's not in the schools.

  • Jessica Taylor:

    And I think it was sort of a perfect storm of things because you had parents that had been struggling with their kids, being at virtual school and wanting to go back and falling behind. So I think it was sort of, you know, again, parents wanted saw what their kids were doing. They worried about them falling behind. And so it really I think COVID really did play into it in that way and it played into it. Advantage for Republicans on education.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    It certainly appears to be doing that. Let's look now, Jessica, at the voters were asked their view of both candidates, and this is interesting. Their view of Terry McAuliffe, former governor just left office four years ago, favorable. Forty five unfavorable. Fifty two.

  • Jessica Taylor:

    I mean. Well, there's never an incumbent running for reelection in Virginia because the only state here that limits them to one consecutive term. He's a he was essentially the incumbent. The de facto incumbent said he'd been governor just four years ago and left office pretty popular, too. So, I mean, if you're underwater like that versus youngkin above water by 10 points, right?

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And let's show, let's show our viewers here again. Voters ask view of Glenn Youngkin favorable 53. It's it's the mirror opposite.

  • Jessica Taylor:

    And I think another key point happened right after the Democratic primary ended. 10 again. He put millions of dollars of his own money into the race, and he was able to air about six weeks or so of positive ads, defining himself early, talking about his business background, working as a dishwasher in high school. And those went unanswered. So young Cohen got to define himself before Democrats, could he?

  • Judy Woodruff:

    The former, a very successful private equity executive and, as you say, put what, $20 million of his own money, at least that we know of right into the campaign. Then the last exit poll I want to share with our viewers, Jessica voters asked what what your view is of Donald Trump? And that was 53 percent of them said they had an unfavorable view of Donald Trump. But among those 18, 18 percent of them still voted for Glenn Youngkin, who had been endorsed by Trump.

  • Jessica Taylor:

    This says to me that McAuliffe's doubling down in the final weeks of the race of just trying to paint Youngkin as a Donald Trump clone did not work. Also remember, voters are are more likely to to be willing to split their ticket when it comes to governor than for Senate, for instance. So here there is a silver lining here for Democrats. I think that because when we look back at the past presidential elections, the past two cycles, the Senate races have gone almost exactly the same as the presidential results say for Susan Collins in 2020. But remember, Vermont, Maryland, Massachusetts have Republican governors. Kansas has a Democratic governor. Kentucky, Louisiana have Democratic governors. So they're not voting for a party to control Washington. They really are voting for who you want to see in charge. And so voters don't think of those in the same way as they do federal races.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Less than a minute left. But Jessica, I have to ask you, you study these Senate races and governors races all the time. Everybody wants to read the tea leaves and and know what's going to happen next year when when we have so many Senate seats up in all the House seats up, what should we read from this with this very early results so far?

  • Jessica Taylor:

    Democrats need a message. You can't just be anti-Trump right now. And I think that people came out to vote against Donald Trump. Democrats don't have them in their pocket. I can think back to last year, when I was talking with a Democratic strategist in the suburban vote, they said, Have we do we own those voters now or have we rented them? They're not in their pocket. They're going to have to do something. And that means congressional action pointing to something that a Democratic majority in Congress has been able to do. I mean, Virginia could just be the first earthquake.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Again and the two governors races tonight. Phil Murphy seems to be holding on at this point very early in the count. But Terry McAuliffe, running behind with 70 percent of the vote in the former Democratic governor of Virginia running behind in Virginia. We're waiting, of course, to see more results. We'll be back later. Thank you, Jessica.

  • Jessica Taylor:

    Thank you.

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