Voters head to the polls today in closely-watched elections

by mcardinal

Chris Lange, FISM News


Outcomes in several state-wide elections today have the potential to shake up the balance of power in Washington D.C. and serve as a referendum on President Biden, whose favorability has dropped considerably in recent months.

Virginia’s highly-competitive gubernatorial race has taken center stage as Republican newcomer, businessman Glenn Youngkin, saw a surprising spike in the polls in recent weeks. Youngkin took a lead for the first time in the home stretch over his Democratic opponent, former Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe.

Virginia was a state that favored Joe Biden by a double-digit margin in the 2020 presidential election, leading many pundits to see this race as a barometer for the pulse of the nation at large.  A loss by McAuliffe, once the frontrunner, could send national Democrats into a panic as they struggle to maintain power of the House and Senate.

As reported previously by FISM News, the Virginia race has become a battle of culture wars fueled by growing clashes between parents and school board members over issues like critical race theory curricula and transgender policies. McAuliffe saw an alarming drop in his poll numbers following a nationally-televised debate during which he said parents should not have a voice in their children’s education. Youngkin, who has campaigned as a champion for parents’ rights, seized on the comment, using the soundbite in multiple campaign ads to successfully boost his momentum, particularly among crucial independent voters in the blue state.

Youngkin’s strategy could provide key insight for Republicans who want to recapture the votes of suburban moderates alienated by Trump’s firebrand leadership style and controversial tweets. A good voter turnout is expected in the Commonwealth, particularly among Republicans who tend to bypass early voting in favor of casting their ballots on election day. Cold weather and rain expected in parts of the Commonwealth, however, could dampen voter turnout.   

Another off-year gubernatorial race to watch is New Jersey Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy’s bid for reelection. His relatively-unknown Republican opponent, Jack Ciattarelli, has steadily risen in popularity. This has sounded alarm bells among Democrats that they may have been over-confident in a landslide victory. However, results from a Trafalgar survey released Monday, show Murphy in the lead among Garden State voters with nearly 50% over Ciatarelli’s 45%, with 4% undecided as of the survey date.

The gap between the two candidates’ popularity has been closing in recent months, in large part, due to Murphy’s draconian COVID lockdowns that seem to have had little-to-no impact on the state’s nationwide ranking as number three in COVID-related deaths. Murphy also has also been criticized for sending COVID-positive senior citizens back into nursing homes at the height of the pandemic. A dismal unemployment rate of 7.1% under the Democrat’s leadership has also hurt his favorability.

New Jersey has seen double-digit wins for Democrats in its gubernatorial races dating back to 1961, though Democratic incumbents have failed every reelection bid for the governor’s seat since 1965. While the odds favor Murphy, the tightness of the race has sent Democrats scrambling to reevaluate their campaign strategies as the 2022 midterm elections loom. 

Meanwhile, Minneapolis voters will decide on a key ballot measure that could effectively dismantle the city’s police department. The second question on the ballot is whether the city’s charter should be amended to replace the Minneapolis Police Department with a Department of Public Safety. Several Democrats in the state, most notably Sen. Ilhan Omar, have thrown their weight behind trading a crime-and-punishment approach to safety for “a comprehensive public health approach.”

If approved, the measure will strip police departments of crucial funding that will be redirected to hiring social workers and other mental health employees to deal with crime. The “defund the police” movement, sparked by the death of George Floyd, has seen some U.S. cities slash police budgets at a time when violent crime is alarmingly on the rise. 

With the balance of power in the nation’s capital at stake, the outcome of today’s highly-anticipated elections will serve as a litmus test for the 2022 midterms at a time when seven out of 10 Americans believe the country is headed in the wrong direction, according to an NBC News poll.