Sabato: Don’t count GOP out in Virginia, could win statewide in Nov. 2021

Larry Sabato at the University Center for Politics says the first presidential debate did not...
Larry Sabato at the University Center for Politics says the first presidential debate did not change candidates' polling.(wvir)
Updated: Dec. 24, 2020 at 10:53 AM EST
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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - University of Virginia Center for Politics Director Larry Sabato says there are a few factors that could help a Republican carry the governorship in Virginia next year.

The political expert believes there is one major advantage the GOP has in the 2021 gubernatorial race that they haven’t had in a few years: “There is no longer a Republican president, or there will not be by June and November, so how President Joe Biden does will have an impact on the November election,” Sabato said.

There are also future unknowns that could bolster Republican efforts in the state.

“We don’t know what the course of this pandemic will be. We don’t know how long it will take the economy to recover. I rather suspect it’s going to take longer than people are guessing right now,” Sabato said

It’s not just the future, Sabato says history favors Republicans: “Consider what happened after Barack Obama was elected, just nine months after he took office, Republicans won all three statewide offices,” he said.

All that said, there is one major factor that could hinder GOP efforts in the commonwealth: current-President Donald Trump.

“Trump is taking up the space that normally would apply to gubernatorial candidates and people running for other offices, because he’s already talking about a 2024 campaign,” Sabato said.

As for who is best positioned to win so far, Sabato says it differs by party: It’s former-Governor Terry McAuliffe on the Democratic side. “He’s been governor, he raises money like nobody’s business - he already has - and notice how many endorsements he’s been getting: many of them from African-American incumbent legislators,” Sababto said.

Former Virginia House of Delegates Speaker Kirk Cox is aiming for the GOP nomination.

“They have to nominate a candidate who isn’t tied up with all of these right wing social issue causes. It just doesn’t sell in Virginia anymore,” Sabato said.

Sabato said if Republicans do nominate one of the farther right candidates, then it will all but guarantee a win for Democrats statewide.

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