Abraham Lincoln said it best—a house divided against itself cannot stand. The Democrats proved that this past week with poor election results and a legislative logjam which was caused by warring wings of their party.
But Republicans need to understand that efforts to divide their own house could have equally devastating results.
As we watch the Democrat Party’s infighting create difficulties passing even bipartisan legislation with public support, there are actually Republican establishment elites who are trying to create the same type of environment in their party.
These Republicans simply cannot see past their personal angst for Donald Trump and their desire to return things to “normal.”
What is their definition of normal?
They like the days when higher educated, white collar voters were the core of the GOP, while blue collar working families and poor made up the Democrat base.
Donald Trump broke down the door to the country club and ironically these elites would like it replaced with a “big, beautiful wall.”
Within hours of Glenn Youngkin’s victory, these GOP elites were out in full force saying the new post-Trump victory playbook had been created.
They said Virginia proved that distance from Trump led to more Republican votes across the state minimizing the contribution of Trump-supporting, working class voters who were a critical part of a winning coalition.
If we’ve learned anything watching the infighting among the Democrats, it should be that both major parties only win when they accept the diversity of opinion and background within themselves by uniting behind a shared mission.
That is the true Youngkin playbook. He united those who support Trump, and some who oppose him, around a message they could share.
Without either side, Youngkin loses.
Republicans should not be fooled into believing these efforts to divide the Party into Trumpers and Never Trumpers.
Glenn Youngkin won Virginia’s race for governor by almost the exact two-point margin that both of our firms, Trafalgar Group and InsiderAdvantage, independently published just prior to Election Day.
As has become more frequent in recent years, only our two firms detected a shift in voter sentiment leading to a race being either closer than thought or an outright upset.
One other survey in the final RCP average did show Youngkin leading, but it was by a fanciful eight points, which defied the realities of Virginia politics and its demographics.
While we think we have a pretty good handle on the Youngkin victory, we would quickly warn that attempting to adopt a one size fits all approach to other important battleground states could be fatal to GOP hopes of winning back the House and Senate.
For example, in the recent Georgia US Senate runoffs, campaign and PAC experts embraced a Beltway playbook of ‘attack, attack, attack.”
At the same time, they avoided serious discussion of issues such as gun rights, border security and “Cancel Culture.” This despite the fact that over 65% of all Georgia voters support the Second Amendment and the border wall.
And amazingly over seventy-percent opposed the idea of “canceling” the (Atlanta) Braves’ name after the announcement to alter the name of the Cleveland Indians (which occurred during the election runoff).
These were all Georgia issues upon which both Democrat candidates were vulnerable but that received short shrift from the GOP establishment “strategists.”
The two GOP incumbents also avoided embracing President Trump’s concerns about election integrity.
In addition, both candidates were reluctant to support the public demand for a higher Covid stimulus check, even though Democrats and Trump got behind the idea immediately.
Even when the House passed a clean piece of legislation for an additional $1,400, that Trump agreed to sign, the two Senators remained silent.
They failed to speak out against Majority Leader McConnell’s decision to not even allow a vote on it.
This allowed Biden and both Democratic Senate candidates in Georgia to say a vote for them would be “a vote for Senate leadership that would put more money in your pocket.”
In essence, the winning coalition of traditional “mainstream Republicans” and “working class” Trump Republicans was split.
It’s always a mistake to force working people to choose between candidates who are lukewarm on issues that inspire them and candidate’s whose election would put money in their pocket.
As a result, our final Georgia runoff polls both accurately reflected this lack of enthusiasm. We both observed from the moment stimulus checks became a motivating factor, undecideds breaking for the Democrats. We knew the strategy was wrong and that both incumbents were likely going down as a result.
Interpreting Youngkin’s victory as a political strategy of “you can have your cake and eat it too” regarding Donald Trump in the 2022 election cycle states—many of whom have a more substantial Republican presence than Virginia—would also be incorrect and would have disastrous results.
It would be fair to say that President Trump was very much a part of the Virginia vote. In the last days of the campaign, endless ads and speeches by national Democrats attempted to torpedo Youngkin by linking him to the former president.
Their efforts had no impact.
With President Biden’s approval ratings in the tank and buyers’ remorse running high, it was obviously difficult to convince voters that Donald Trump was a reason to vote Democrat.
In so many other competitive states in 2022, Trump is viewed as the primary reason to vote Republican. Yes, campaigns must unite both his supporters and those who are less enthusiastic about Donald Trump.
But trying to use Virginia as a reason to divide the party into camps or to ignore, as we say in the South “the one who brung you to the dance,” would be foolhardy and could result in “Failed Georgia Runoffs 2.0” not just for that state, but for others necessary to give Republicans a majority.
Robert Cahaly is CEO and Chief Pollster for The Trafalgar Group. Matt Towery is Chairman of InsiderAdvantage. Both firms were among the most accurate in the nation during the 2020 presidential contest. They had the two most accurate polls in both the Georgia Senate runoffs, and the recent Virginia Governor’s race.
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