"They just were not engaged and excited about a ticket that they saw as not in tune with their issues or interests, and not of their generation," Kidd said. "On the other side, you had younger conservative voters who have been less engaged over the last 10 years, who were suddenly really engaged because they were excited about the idea of having a candidate who was generating enthusiasm and energy, especially in the last three or four weeks of the election."
Virginia Governor-elect Glenn Youngkin notably improved the GOP’s standing with younger voters, moderates, independents and White women since the last gubernatorial election in 2017.
Youngkin’s inroads among these swing voters, seen in an analysis of CNN’s exit polls from 2017 and 2021, made him the first Republican to win in a statewide race in Virginia since 2009 and provides a playbook for other Republican candidates for the 2022 midterms. It also sends a clear message to Democrats that voters expect them to deliver on their promises of passing monumental legislation and containing the Covid-19 pandemic and that it’s no longer enough to campaign against former President Donald Trump, Virginia political analysts told CNN.
“There are tons of congressional districts around the country that look like Virginia,” said Quentin Kidd, a professor and director of the Wason Center for Public Policy at Christopher Newport University. “There are states out there that are competitive like Virginia. And I think Glenn Youngkin demonstrated how a Republican can run in those places. And I think we learned also that moderate, independent voters, just because they’ve been voting against Donald Trump for the last four years doesn’t mean Democrats can take them for granted.”
A surge in voter interest from younger Republicans helped tilt the commonwealth in Youngkin’s favor, analysts said. Meanwhile, younger, non-white Democrats — who had hoped for a younger, more progressive nominee — were not as energized by former Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s return to the campaign trail and largely stayed home.
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