|Last week, in the wake of a close loss in the Wisconsin supreme court election, former U.S. Attorney-General Eric Holder said that he was working on a campaign pledge for 2020 Democrats to commit to turning some of their attention to down-ballot races. This seems especially important in Virginia since all 140 seats in the General Assembly are up this year, but so far, none of the 2020 candidates have held public campaign events in Virginia – one of a handful of Super Tuesday states that hasn’t been visited yet. That may change next week, as Beto O’Rourke is planning to make a swing through Virginia and North Carolina. We’ll see if his visit to the Commonwealth will entice more 2020 Democrats to put a focus on boosting state legislative campaigns like they have done for special elections in Iowa and South Carolina.
On the Republican side, Donald Trump already appears to have big plans for his campaign in Virginia. POLITICO reported last week that Trump is looking to expand the 2020 map to the Commonwealth and plans to use the 2019 elections as a test of whether he can be competitive there. In addition to holding rallies and fundraisers for Virginia Republicans, the Trump campaign is deploying field staffers in the coming months – much like Obama’s reelection campaign did in 2011.
But the reality is that 2020 hasn’t shaped the 2019 campaigns – at least not yet. Most Republican candidates are zeroing in on issues like jobs and infrastructures to localize their races rather than focusing on issues receiving national attention. And the controversies in Virginia’s executive offices have overshadowed events in Washington.
The only competitive district where Republicans are embracing Trump in their digital advertising is in the HD-28 primary that we covered in a previous issue
of FWIW Virginia.
We noticed that Democrats actually seem more eager to welcome Trump’s intervention than Virginia Republicans. Nationalizing this year’s state legislative elections could help Democrats take attention away from the controversies surrounding Virginia’s statewide officeholders and fuel a wave election like we saw in 2017 and 2018.
However, Trump’s Virginia approval rating is currently higher than Ralph Northam’s (44% compared to 40%) according to a recent poll from Christopher Newport University
, though Morning Consult
shows that Virginia voters have disapproved of the president since July 2017.
We’re going to keep our eye on which 2020 Democratic hopefuls start boosting campaigns in Virginia. With so many presidential candidates desperately trying to differentiate themselves from the pack, using their national platform to help out down-ballot races would be a great – and highly important – way to build goodwill ahead of the primary contests.