One could say Virginia Democrats got what they deserved for getting involved with the Lincoln Project in the run-up to Tuesday’s election.
There was the incident last Friday when the Lincoln Project paid Democrat Party officials to dress as “white supremacists” and volunteer for Republican Glenn Youngkin’s campaign. The stunt failed, the perpetrators were identified, and Democrats were left with egg on their faces for trying to paint the leader of the most diverse statewide ticket in Virginia history as a racist.
As noteworthy as that was, it did not change the trajectory of the race. The tide had turned by then. Youngkin was leading or even in almost every poll, and the momentum clearly was on his side.
But another incident involving Lincoln Project was, I believe, far more consequential. On Oct. 13, I emceed the Take Back Virginia rally in Henrico, Va., at the Atlas 42 restaurant. We pledged allegiance to the American flag – a flag that had been on a Trump tour bus that had traveled to many peaceful Trump rallies throughout Virginia.
The Lincoln Project gleefully publicized this as us pledging allegiance to an insurrection flag, even though there clearly was no insurrection and the flag had never been near the US Capitol.
McAuliffe and the Lincoln Project both blanketed the airwaves with ads saying we had pledged allegiance to an insurrection flag. Coverage poured in from around the world.
“The insurrection was good, actually,” sneered Rolling Stone in a tone typical of the reports. “This was the message sent last night at a high-profile rally for Virginia gubernatorial candidate Glenn Youngkin.”
Damage control was done. Youngkin said it was weird and wrong to pledge allegiance to an insurrection flag – which would be true if that had been what happened – then tried to move on. The Lincoln Project continued to raise it with media friends… teaching Democrats how to win, Stuart Stevens bragged.
But it didn’t work out as the Lincoln Project planned. Youngkin was walking a tight rope – trying to not look too close to Trump to scare suburbanites who turned against the president in the 2020 election and not distance himself too much to anger Trump’s loyal MAGA supporters.
He had some success in the suburbs. McAuliffe ran seven points behind Joe Biden’s 2020 totals in Fairfax County and six points behind in Loudoun, although he still won both handily and recorded Biden-esque numbers in Arlington and Alexandria.
But Youngkin rolled by bigger margins than usual in Trump country – the Shenandoah Valley, rural Central Virginia, Southwest Virginia, his hometown of Virginia Beach. Every precinct in the 9th congressional district in far Southwest Virginia, recorded a double-digit gain in support for Republicans. Even some majority-black areas in Southside saw Democrat margins erode.
The rally the Lincoln Project mocked was not for the suburban coalition. It was for the MAGAs. Youngkin did not attend. Trump called in and endorsed Youngkin to the crowd. Steve Bannon, who grew up in Richmond, was the headliner. Mark Finchem from Arizona discussed the ballot audit going on there.
The MAGAs knew where the flag came from and knew it had been lied about all over the world thanks to the Lincoln Project. They took that personally and left there that night newly energized about supporting Youngkin.
That was not the only factor that contributed to the victory. Parents don’t like being told they have no say in their children’s education. Support for draconian vaccine mandates is collapsing, and McAuliffe may be its first political victim. The people he brought in to speak for him – President Biden, former President Obama and Vice-President Harris among others – either didn’t move the needle or, in the case of Biden, moved it in the wrong direction.
But the conventional wisdom – the entire theory of the McAuliffe campaign – was that tying Youngkin to Trump would lead to an inevitable moment when he either rejected moderates and independents or rejected Trump’s MAGA army.
It was so bad Youngkin even mocked it in an ad at the end of the campaign, splicing together various times of McAuliffe talking about Trump.
Youngkin knew he could do that without losing the MAGA base because he knew MAGAs were angry about the lies told about the Take Back Virginia rally.
So, when McAuliffe and Democrats are studying what went wrong, they might consider that doing business with the people at the Lincoln Project might have not have been a smart idea. As one wag said, “Congratulations, Rick Wilson, you finally got a Republican elected.”
Far left Democrats
critical race theory