Or pretty much everything former President Donald Trump said and did during his four years in the White House. Republicans running for any office in Virginia during the Trump years lived under a shadow — and a Twitter account — that could put them on the defensive hours before some of them rolled out of bed.
But that doesn’t mean Virginia Democrats are in the clear. Far from there. History shows that voters eliminate any frustrations they have with an incumbent president in midterm congressional elections, and Virginia is no different.
This year, Republicans are counting on headlines about inflation and crime to lead them to victory. That’s a far cry from where they were in the last midterm elections, when Trump was pretty much all the Democrats needed to win.
In those 2018 midterm races, incumbent GOP Reps Barbara Comstock, Dave Brat and Scott Taylor all lost. Democrats have since controlled the 10th, 7th and 2nd congressional districts. But keeping them this year – in particular, 2nd, with starter Elaine Luria, and 7th, with starter Abigail Spanberger, is going to be tight stuff.
That helps explain the amount of money being poured into those two races — nearly $12 million spent on ads alone in the 2nd District race, and a whopping $20 million and more in the 7th.
While all of this spending is music to various media ears, will it make a difference – much less insulate a candidate against outside surprise?
We will have to find out. But in Spenberger’s case, his campaign is running an ad with former 5th District Rep. — and former Republican — Denver Riggleman that could absorb a mild October surprise.
The ad leads with Riggleman, who also narrates. While it’s not unusual for another politician – former or current – to star in another politician’s campaign ad, Riggleman’s choice is less compelling for what he says about Spanberger’s bipartisanship than the Riggleman’s signal to Republicans who still find the current party hopeless. , populist disorder.
It’s okay to vote for this Democrat, who is clearly more accomplished, centered and efficient than Republican candidate Yesli Vega, who Riggleman says is among “fact-challenged individuals” running for office this year.
This may be a case of Riggleman looking to pick up where the late former Sen. John Warner — who made a habit of endorsing Democrats over Republicans in his later years — left off. There’s plenty of room — and a dire need — for an above-the-party figure in Virginia politics. Is Riggleman the one?
For now, it could be. Or at least that’s what the Spanberger campaign is counting on with the Riggleman ad.
The question is whether it can cut through the noise and make a difference in the Commonwealth’s most expensive home race. And, more so, if there are enough of those disgruntled Republicans and GOP-leaning independents in the new 7th District to vote for Spanberger — if they can be persuaded to vote at all.
Getting them to pull the lever for the Democrat is not unprecedented — more than a few did when Spanberger ran and won two close and costly races in the former 7th. If Riggleman’s ad works, if it persuades the remaining Republican just enough to vote for Spanberger, that could be the real surprise in this race.