As all three of Virginia’s Democrat-led executive branch officials have been marred in scandal over the past two months, the situation has opened an opportunity not just for Republicans across the Commonwealth, but for President Donald Trump’s 2020 campaign. In searching for politically blue-leaning states that he might turn in his favor for his re-election, Trump has set his sights on Virginia to flip it red in the next 19 months.
Although the president has just a 36 percent approval rating in the Commonwealth, according to a February Quinnipiac poll, he believes he can win favor with disaffected Democrats coming off two months of racial and sexual scandals and an extraordinary progressive policy agenda from the liberal party.
Late last month, Vice President Mike Pence met with key Republican leaders at a fundraiser in Northern Virginia to outline the first push of flipping the state in the upcoming 2019 elections. All 140 seats in the General Assembly will be on the ballot as Republicans hold slim majorities in the House of Delegates and State Senate, 51-49 and 21-19, respectively.
“He said, and we agreed, that Virginia is in play in 2020,” said Republican Caucus Chairman Delegate Tim Hugo (R-Clifton) regarding his conversation with Vice President Pence, according to a report from Politico.
Showing his commitment towards ensuring wins for the GOP in the Commonwealth, Hugo said Pence made it clear that “he’d come back as much as we wanted.”
Republicans could use the 2019 elections for the state legislature as a bellwether to test Democratic turnout for the following year, which will be affected by months of headline coverage of the Democratic scandals that could particularly dampen enthusiasm at the ballot box among African-American and women voters.
In Virginia, GOP campaigns are also highlighting a non-traditional set of candidates to win on Election Day to make a run at protecting and even growing their majorities.
In the run-up to November 5, Republicans are backing a barrage of more diverse of candidates in suburban districts, with seven of their top 10 recruits being women or minorities. Furthermore, the GOP will build on this year’s legislative session that saw the promotion of “kitchen table” issues such as college affordability, school safety, teenage vaping and smoking, and foster care reform to prove to Virginians that Republican leadership is the way forward.
While Republican leaders warned the vice president that another government shutdown this year could doom their electoral prospects, considering Virginia is home to hundreds of thousands of federal employees, they remain ardent that “Virginia,” as Delegate Hugo said, “could very well end up in the Republican column in 2020.”