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GOP nominee will test Trump's drag on the party in Virginia governor's race

First Read is your briefing from "Meet the Press" and the NBC Political Unit on the day's most important political stories and why they matter.
Glenn Youngkin in Richmond, Va., on January 10, 2021.Kate Magee Joyce / AP file

WASHINGTON — After a slightly faster count and less chaotic process than we had expected, Virginia Republicans now have their nominee for governor.

Former Carlyle Group co-executive Glenn Youngkin, whose campaign and party have cast him as a political outsider.

And Youngkin will be a fascinating test case ahead of next year’s midterm elections: Can a wealthy GOP outsider — who has embraced Trump, campaigned on election integrity and declined to say that Joe Biden’s 2020 victory was legitimate — win in blue Virginia, especially in its suburbs?

Or now that Trump is out of the White House and off of Twitter, are Democratic and suburban voters less fired up in Virginia than they were four years ago?

Democrats who are watching the race tell First Read that they plan to play up the Jan. 6 attack in their messaging against Youngkin.

Why do we care so much about Virginia’s off-year gubernatorial contest? Because it has traditionally indicated the direction the political winds are blowing before the midterm elections.

And this year’s gubernatorial race is a showdown of two different streaks.

Streak No. 1: Of Virginia's 14 major statewide contests since 2004 — for president, the Senate and governor — Democrats have won 13. The exception was Republican Bob McDonnell's victory in the 2009 governor's race.

Streak No 2: Since the 1970s, the party that just won White House has always lost the VA-GOV contest the following year — with just one exception: Terry McAuliffe's narrow victory in 2013.

Democrats will choose their nominee in a primary on June 8.

Data Download: The numbers you need to know today

1 million: The number of people who signed up for Obamacare under the recent special enrollment period.

32,901,856: The number of confirmed cases of coronavirus in the United States, per the most recent data from NBC News and health officials.

586,231: The number of deaths in the United States from the virus so far, per the most recent data from NBC News.

329,843,825: The number of vaccine doses administered in the U.S.

32.1 percent: The share of Americans who are fully vaccinated.

63 percent: The portion of Americans who want domestic U.S. air travel to require Covid-19 vaccination, per the new Axios/Ipsos Coronavirus Index.

45 percent: The increase in global renewable energy capacity, the largest increase since 1999, per the Wall Street Journal.

Tweet of the day

Looking at the 2020 electorate six months after the election

The Democratic group Catalist released its analysis of the 2020 electorate after combing through the voter files, and here are the major findings, per NBC’s Benjy Sarlin:

Neither party can take any voters for granted: You’ve surely heard it a million times: Republicans made major gains with white voters without a college degree under Trump, while Democrats made gains with college-educated white voters. Biden’s margin with non-college whites was about the same as Clinton (he gained a point), and he improved 4 points with college-educated white voters.

But if you look at each party’s total votes, you can see why neither Republicans nor Democrats can give up on trying to appeal to both groups. Non-college whites made up 32 percent of all Biden voters, more than any other group and more than college-educated white voters, who made up 29 percent. College-educated white still voters made up 27 percent of Trump voters. The slightest change in margin and turnout with either group can be the difference between victory and defeat, which is exactly what happened in 2020.

The Democratic electorate was 61 percent white and 39 percent nonwhite, while the Republican electorate was 85 percent white and 15 percent nonwhite.

Black voters were critical to Biden’s win, especially in Georgia: Catalist found that increased Black turnout was a major boon for Democrats in 2020. Nowhere was this clearer than in Georgia, where they estimate Democrats netted an additional 199,773 votes versus 2016 from improved performance with Black voters alone. Biden’s winning margin was 11,779 votes.

But even in Arizona, where Latino and Native American voters tended to receive more attention in political analysis, the estimated 28,458 net increase from 2016 with Black voters more than accounted for Biden’s 10,457 vote win.

Democrats really had a problem with Latinos: Democrats’ margin with Latinos dropped by 8 points from 2020 to 2016, the biggest shift of any major demographic with Republican gains especially pronounced among women. But there are still some unanswered questions. Latino turnout also shot up by 31 percent, and Catalist’s analysis isn’t sure how much of the shift was driven by Clinton-Trump voters versus new voters who were attracted to Trump’s message and previously didn’t vote.

The electorate is changing fast: Turnout hit a century-high in 2020 and a whopping 29 percent of voters did not vote in their state in 2016, either because they were voting for the first time in a presidential election or because they had moved from somewhere else. Biden won 56 percent of these voters, who were critical to his victory. It’s hard to make confident demographic predictions about the future when so much of the electorate is in flux and turnout is swinging so wildly from cycle to cycle. Turnout among the growing AAPI vote, for example, shot up 39 percent in just one cycle. Also, 40 percent of Latino voters and 42 percent of Asian voters were new voters in 2020, per Catalist.

Overall, the white share of the electorate fell from 77 percent in 2008 to 72 percent in 2020; Latinos increased from 7 percent in 2008 to 10 percent in 2020; and whites without college degrees declined from a majority of all voters in 2008 (51 percent) to 44 percent in 2020.

Latinos and immigration reform

Speaking of Latino voters, pollsters Barreto Segura Partners (BSP Research) and EquisLabs completed a survey of 1,800 Latino voters in battleground states and districts for the pro-immigration-reform groups Immigration Hub and UnidosUS Action Fund.

Some of the key findings:

  • 82 percent of them support for the American Dream and Promise Act, and another 80 percent back earned legal status and a path to citizenship for essential workers.
  • While 60 percent say they have a good idea of where Biden stands on immigration, just 22 percent know “exactly” where he stands on the issue.
  • When asked who would deserve blame if immigration reform does not pass this year, 30 percent of Latinos say they would blame Biden/Democrats, 31 percent would blame Republicans, and 40 percent would blame both parties equally.

ICYMI: What else is happening in the world

The New York Times is endorsing Kathryn Garcia in the crowded New York City mayoral field.

The FDA has authorized the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine for those 12 years of age and older.

More and more states are ending enhanced unemployment benefits put into place during the pandemic.

The World Health Organization has labeled a new Covid-19 variant first found in India as one of “concern at a global level.”

NBC News traveled with a team delivering Covid-19 vaccines to remote parts of Uganda.

Politico profiles Maine Rep. Jared Golden, “The ex-Marine who holds Democrats’ Trumpiest seat.”

And Mike Rosenbaum, a businessman and former Clinton administration economist, is running for governor in Maryland.