Residents of Virginia and New Jersey went to the polls yesterday to vote in a number of races, including the gubernatorial primaries. In the wake of COVID-19, the role of governor has become what many consider to be paramount: They can control whether the state stays open or shuts down, and this may have been the driving force in Tuesday’s elections.
A notable facet of these 2021 primaries has been the media’s focus on the progressive credentials of the various candidates in Virginia. With Governor Ralph Northam stepping down due to the state’s unique “no consecutive terms” statute – you can be governor more than once, but not in back-to-back terms – the Fourth Estate treated residents to a litany of candidate profiles focused heavily on skin color, sex, and just how far left the hopeful is on the wokeness spectrum. On the other hand, with Democrat New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy running unopposed, Garden State journalists sold their written wares based upon how supportive former President Trump has been of each of the Republican contenders.
Virginia Not-So Slims
Former Virginia governor Terry McAuliffe won yesterday’s Democrat primary easily, defeating candidates who campaigned on progressive agendas, rolling up a huge 62% – 20 points clear of his closest rival. And although “the Macker” has made a public commitment to address more progressive issues, astute readers may remember the PolitiFact “Macker-Meter Scorecard” that tracked all of the former governor’s pledges and whether he had honored them. Some eight years down the line, the meter stands at zero.
So why, knowing McAuliffe’s record, would Virginia Democrats choose to bring back such a candidate? With the Fourth Estate actively pushing his primary opponents, could it be that the residents of Old Dominion don’t actually buy into the progressive ideology?
Not so long ago, the commonwealth was considered safe for a Republican presidential election and a toss-up for most gubernatorial contests. All that changed in 2008, when Barack Obama became the first Democrat to win Virginia in 32 years. Republican Bob McDonnell won the 2009 governor’s race, but Virginia has been a solid blue bet ever since. What this likely suggests is that there are a significant number of conservative voters, but also some very centrist Democrat voters. And these latter folks are the ones who just gave McAuliffe his second shot at the governor’s mansion.
It seems that Virginian Democrats are perhaps more moderate than their proximity to the nation’s capital would suggest and not quite as obsessed with identity politics as the media would wish.
McAuliffe now goes toe-to-toe with Republican hopeful Glenn Youngkin, who was nominated in a statewide convention in May. Given his deep pockets, business background, and evident appeal to those treasured moderate suburban women, Youngkin is widely considered the most viable GOP gubernatorial nominee since McDonnell left office over a decade ago.
New Jersey presents a different story. With Democrat Governor Phil Murphy running unopposed, all the action was on the Republican primary. Former state legislator Jack Ciattarelli took the contest with 49% of the vote, beating out stalwart Trump supporters Phil Rizzo and Hirsh Singh by more than 20 points each.
After his victory, Ciattarelli is being touted as the anti-Trump candidate. But there appear to be Fourth Estate smoke and mirrors in place. Coverage of the 59-year-old businessman prior to his win denounced him as a semi-Trump loyalist (not as out and proud as Singh or Rizzo) who refused to support a 9/11-style commission on the events of January 6. Now that he is the confirmed challenger to Governor Murphy, he is being cast as an anti-MAGA RINO by the very same media outlets. Ciattarelli is backed by most state Republican organizations and is seen as the GOP’s best shot at beating the incumbent governor.
Rolling Stones Redux
Contrary to the popular 1969 Rolling Stones track, “You Can’t Always Get What You Want,” it seems voters do often get precisely what they want. In Virginia, despite the media scrum almost demanding that residents opt for the more progressive candidate, voters opted for Terry McAullife. In New Jersey, the most ballots were cast for the guy who was nominally MAGA but not to the extreme.
Maybe folks don’t want progressive candidates and leadership after all. Joe Biden handily won the 2020 Democrat Party presidential nomination when there was an ocean of progressive icons from which to choose. It seems the American public of every political flavor is being force-fed a legacy media diet of progressive this and diverse that. When what they really want – as the results of these primaries demonstrate – is a more traditional repast.
Read more from Mark Angelides.