Virginia legislative elections seen as a key 2024 bellwether

The polls have closed in Virginia, where the battle for control of the state government has grabbed outsized national attention.

Unlike Kentucky and Mississippi, there’s no gubernatorial or any other statewide contests in Virginia. But the legislative elections in the Commonwealth may end up being the marquee ballot box showdown on Tuesday.

National Democrats and Republicans have spent millions on races for control of state House of Delegates and Senate, with the contests viewed in political circles as a key barometer ahead of the 2024 elections for president, control of Congress and key governorships.

Republicans won elections for governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general in 2021 — the GOP’s first statewide victories in a dozen years — and they flipped the House. The victories in a state that had trended blue over the previous decade energized Republicans nationwide.

VIRGINIA’S LEGISLATIVE ELECTIONS A CRUCIAL 2024 BAROMETER

Now, Gov. Glenn Youngkin aims to hold the GOP’s narrow majority in the state House and recapture control of the state Senate, where Democrats currently hold a fragile majority, to give Republicans nationwide another boost ahead of next year’s elections. And total control of the state legislature will give Youngkin the green light to pass a conservative agenda.

Youngkin embraced the national attention on his state’s legislative showdowns.

“I believe it should be a bellwether because Virginia leads,” he said in a Fox News Digital interview late last week. “I think we can lead and demonstrate that in a state that was lost, a state that was totally controlled by Democrats, we can in 24 short months come together — Republicans, independents, and, yes, some Democrats — and choose commonsense conservative leadership and policies that work.… I think other states should take notice.”

Strategists from both parties will be looking closely at the results in Virginia’s northern suburbs of Washington D.C., and around Richmond, for any signs that Republicans are able to make inroads with suburban voters — especially women — who fled the GOP in recent election cycles.

FIVE REASONS TO KEEP A CLOSE WATCH ON VIRGINIA’S 2023 ELEECTIONS

Virginia’s also a major testing ground for Republicans on the divisive issue of abortion.

The blockbuster move last year by the Supreme Court’s conservative majority to overturn the landmark nearly half-century-old Roe v. Wade ruling, which had allowed for legalized abortions nationwide, moved the divisive issue back to the states.

And it’s forced Republicans to play plenty of defense in elections across the country. A party that’s nearly entirely “pro-life” has had to deal with an electorate where a majority of Americans support at least some form of abortion access.

National and state Democrats have made abortion a crucial centerpiece in their push to get out the vote in Virginia.

While some Republicans have shied away from focusing on abortion, Youngkin has been leaning into the issue and is pushing a proposed 15-week abortion ban, with exceptions for rape, incest and the life of the mother.

“I just wanted us to be very clear about what we were going to do,” he told Fox News. And he argued that “the other side is really good about spreading non-truths. And, of course, what they want to do is make abortion available all the way up through and including birth, paid for with taxpayer money.”

Democrats want to keep in place the state’s current restrictions, which allow abortions through the second trimester. And they note that Virginia is the only southern state that doesn’t ban abortions.

Youngkin was on a mission to encourage Republicans to turn out in big numbers in the state’s early voting period ahead of Election Day.

“When Republicans vote, Republicans win. When we turn out, we win,” Youngkin emphasized at a rally in Norfolk on Thursday. “We’ve got to get the vote out.”

Youngkin’s push is shared by the Republican National Committee. Earlier this year, the RNC launched a nationwide “Bank Your Vote” campaign to encourage GOP voters to take part in early in-person voting and absentee balloting to close a gap with Democrats.

The Virginia elections will be the first major test of the GOP’s early voting effort.

While he is not on the ballot, Youngkin has become the face of Virginia’s legislative elections and has plenty riding on the results.

As a first-time candidate who hailed from the party’s business wing, Youngkin in 2021 edged former Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe to become the first GOP candidate in a dozen years to win a gubernatorial election in Virginia.

His win instantly made Youngkin a rising star in the GOP who some pundits viewed as a possible 2024 White House contender.

A number of top conservative donors who don’t support former President Donald Trump — the current commanding front-runner in the GOP nomination race — this autumn have quietly increased their efforts to persuade Youngkin to run for the White House.

That pressure will vastly increase if the GOP takes total control of Virginia’s government.

Get the latest updates from the 2024 campaign trail, exclusive interviews and more at our Fox News Digital election hub.

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