Into Virginia

Today is the day for those off-year elections which in addition to electing governors and mayors and various other officials are taken as harbingers of the political climate going into the following year’s midterm elections. Attention tends to focus on New Jersey and Virginia. Democrat Phil Murphy looks set to win handily in New Jersey. But Virginia, where incumbents can’t run for reelection, looks way too close to call. There are two governing patterns in Virginia. One is that it is an increasingly Democratic state. Joe Biden won it by 10 points and it went narrowly for Hillary Clinton in 2016 even as she lost Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania. The other pattern is that it tends to be won by the party not currently holding the presidency. The guy who broke that latter pattern, ironically, is none other than Terry McAuliffe, who won in 2013, a year after President Obama was reelected.

Now we see which of those patterns will hold.