The Republican candidates for governor of Virginia clearly must think they have a winning issue, as they’re all clamoring for the immediate – or VERY rapid – reopening of schools, despite the COVID-19 pandemic. See below for a few examples of what I’m referring to – whether we’re talking about Amanda Chase, Pete Snyder, Kirk Cox, Glenn Youngkin or whoever. Now, one can debate whether or not in-person schooling right now would be smart from a health perspective, but let’s just focus for a minute on the politics of this…and specifically, is it smart politics for Republican gubernatorial candidates to be pushing hard to “reopen our schools?” Here are a couple data points indicating that the answer is “yes and no.”
- A poll of Virginia earlier this month found “On K-12 schools, “45% say they are re-opening too quickly, 25% say too slowly, and 30% say the pace is about right.” By a massive 57%-12% margin, Democrats say “too quickly”; whereas Republicans say “too slowly” by a 46%-28% margin.
- A new national poll, out a little while ago, finds that “A plurality of Americans, 47 percent, say the reopening of schools in their community is happening at about the right pace, while 27 percent say not quickly enough, and 18 percent say too quickly.”
- Break that down by party affiliation, and it turns out that only 7% of Democrats think that the pace of reopening of schools is going “not quickly enough,” with 63% saying “about right pace” and 24% saying “too quickly.” So clearly, among Democrats, there is no indication of any desire to reopen schools more quickly…quite the contrary, if anything. As for Independents, 49% say “about right pace” and 15% say “too quickly,” with just 26% saying “not quickly enough.” So, about one quarter of Independents might agree with Chase, Cox, Snyder and Youngkin on their “reopen schools NOW” stance.
- Now, in STARK contrast, check out the numbers for Republicans: only 9% say “too quickly,” with 47% (nearly a majority) saying “not quickly enough” and 33% saying “about right pace.” The poll doesn’t break out respondents by ideology, but I bet that conservative Republicans are even more pronounced in wanting schools open NOW.
- So, bottom line: Republican gubernatorial candidates are waaaaayyyy out of step with Democrats and Independents on whether the reopening of schools should be accelerated, but in tune with the near-majority of Republicans who think the reopening of schools is not going fast enough. Which makes sense politically, at least for the time being; after all, these Republican candidates do need to win the *Republican* nomination before they can run in the general election. And to do that, clearly they are going to tailor their messaging in a way that appeals to the people who will select that nominee – most likely, the hard core of Republican activists, either at a convention or in the State Central Committee. In sum, Republican gubernatorial candidates know who their target “market” is, and are trying to win their votes. What they are NOT worried about at the moment is trying to appeal to the broader Virginia electorate. The problem, of course, is that what these Republican candidates say NOW can and most likely will be used against them by the Democratic nominee in the general election this summer and fall…