Our current 2021 Virginia gubernatorial election predictions and prediction commentary are below. Who will win the Virginia governor’s race on November 2?
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2021 Virginia Gubernatorial Election Predictions: Current
Virginia Predictions Commentary, November 1
There comes a time when political prediction websites must go out on a limb, even if the limb seems to get a little stronger every day. The momentum of the Virginia governor’s race is all with Glenn Youngkin, who we now believe will win the election.
Democrat Terry McAuliffe is a former governor with name recognition. He’s had almost every big-name Democratic figure campaign with him. Not to mention, Virginia has trended steadily bluer over the last decade or so. McAuliffe should have had this race in the bag a month ago. He did not, and Democrats in Virginia have good reason to be worried.
As bad as things have been in Virginia for the Republicans since the Obama years, they have some things going for them in this election. First, Glenn Youngkin is well-funded and he’s hammering McAuliffe via traditional and social media advertising. Second, Joe Biden is not as popular these days, which tends to trickle down to the state level, and there is less Democratic enthusiasm today than there was when voting against Trump’s party was a critical protest vote. Third, Youngkin has gotten openings to hit McAuliffe on education, and whether or not one agrees with the policies he proposes on items such as Critical Race Theory, it seems to be landing.
The GOP desperately needs this win to salvage themselves in the commonwealth, and the trend is very much Youngkin’s friend. McAuliffe’s hope is that Northern Virginia and minority voters in Richmond and Hampton Roads turn out in sizable numbers, or he will not be returning to his old job.
Virginia Predictions Commentary, October 7
The Virginia governor’s race is close. Glenn Youngkin may in fact be within a few points of Terry McAuliffe, and early voting is happening now in the commonwealth. We are not prepared to say the Democrats will lose, but it is plausible. It would, however, be in dispute with all of the reputable polling in Virginia so far.
Virginia became a blue state within the past decade or so. Can they keep it that way? Even if Youngkin ends up winning, it would probably be a narrow victory. Joe Biden’s sinking popularity may help him out in this regard, perhaps in just helping Democrats stay home on election day. McAuliffe is not super popular himself.
Should McAuliffe get the turnout he needs in Northern Virginia, it will be difficult for Youngkin to win, though not impossible.
August 15 Update
There is new polling to corroborate the idea that this is a reasonably close race between McAuliffe and Youngkin. We have made the corresponding change to Lean Democratic. McAuliffe remains ahead, but this is a margin-of-error race at the moment.
Virginia is a blue state now, so that helps guide us towards the assumption that McAuliffe will win, but there does not seem to be a great deal of enthusiasm to install him into the governorship again. There is also not much excitement around Youngkin at this point in time, so this race is very much a contest of who underwhelms less.
Virginia Predictions Commentary, August 1
The Virginia governor’s race remains Likely Democratic, but it’s teetering on Lean Democratic. We lack the polling information to change the rating. Yes, there have been polls, but every last one has been a Republican-affiliated one. They all give former governor Terry McAuliffe a narrow lead over Republican Glenn Youngkin.
There are reasons to believe, looking around the Electionarium World Headquarters in Virginia, that voters might not be enthused about McAuliffe returning to power. When he left office, his approval ratings were mediocre on average, and certainly not stellar. His successor, fellow Democrat Ralph Northam, has had similar okay-not-great polling numbers for much of his term. Virginia is a blue state now, of that there is no question, but Virginia’s two main options in 2021 are a Democratic retread and a Republican who is attempting to distance himself from Donald Trump, who lost the state by 10 points last year. How jazzed are November voters going to be? Probably not very, which is why we leave the door open to wacky things happening due to turnout.
Predictions Commentary, February 21
We rate the Virginia governor’s race as Likely Democratic to start the 2021 election cycle.
The Virginia Republican Party is a case study in political implosion; the local GOP just has not figured it out yet. In 2004, George W. Bush carried Virginia for the second time. It was the tenth election in a row in which the Republicans carried the commonwealth. As of 2021, the Democrats have won it at the presidential level four times in a row. They have both Senate seats, a majority of the House seats, all state constitutional offices, and majorities in both houses of the General Assembly. This is what the folks call a blue state.
Now, Virginia back in the day was as blue as anywhere else in the Solid South. However, in the 1960s through 1990s, when a lot of those areas turned more Republican, so did the Old Dominion. Only problem for them is that it did not stay that way. Northern Virginia suburbia in particular has betrayed the GOP: Biden got 70 percent of the vote in Fairfax County in 2020, 62 percent in Loudoun County, and 63 percent in Prince William County. George W. Bush carried Loudoun and Prince William in 2004 and held John Kerry to 53 percent in Fairfax. These areas, and others like them in the state such as Henrico County, have raced away from the GOP in recent years.
It’s not as bad a situation as in New Jersey, but the Republican bench in Virginia gets thinner with each passing year. Ed Gillespie could not win statewide office in his attempts. Corey Stewart was a disaster in his 2018 Senate race. The last GOP governor, Bob McDonnell, who was one of the last Republicans to win anything in the commonwealth, dealt with years of a federal investigation though cleared of it. There is no Republican superhero stepping up to the plate barring the unforeseen.
The GOP may nominate Amanda Chase, a state senator whose claims to fame are her ardent support of Donald Trump and her censure by the Senate for calling the January 6 rioters at the US Capitol “patriots.” It may go as well as when they nominated Stewart, another strong Trump supporter, for US Senate in 2018. Why do we say that? For one thing, Trump lost Virginia by 10 points in 2020, so being pro-Trump is not a winning message there. It is in, say, Alabama, but Virginia is clearly not Alabama in the political alignment department anymore. Does the Virginia GOP know that? It’s not certain. We also say that because there is no reason to believe at this point – zero – that Virginia is spring-loaded to go back the other way after a solid decade or more of trending Democratic.
For their part, the Democrats are bringing heavy-hitters to this race, like former governor Terry McAuliffe and Justin Fairfax, the lieutenant governor. Whomever emerges from that bruising primary will have the advantage of running in a state that is favoring them more and more. For a Democrat to lose in Virginia these days, a Republican has to hold down Democratic numbers in Northern Virginia while winning places like Henrico County, Chesterfield County, Chesapeake, and Virginia Beach. Bob McDonnell did it in 2009; Donald Trump came nowhere near running the table in 2020. It seems to suspend disbelief to think that any Republican can, for example, overturn a 29-point deficit in Henrico County or 25 points in Loudoun County. That’s probably what it’s going to take for the GOP to be competitive in Virginia again, because rural areas in the west and south will never generate enough votes to do it. In the post-Trump world, as it was pre-Trump, it’s getting further away from reality, not closer.