Why the GOP Will Be Winless in 2021

Amid the GOP that was on display last week with the ouster of Rep. Liz Cheney, but it seems to be an underreported fact that this year will see four major elections (VA and NJ Gubernatorial, NYC Mayor’s race, and the California Recall) and the GOP will be 0–4 in all of them. If you add the two GA Senate races it means that the GOP will be 0–6 in major races after Trump’s defeat. While people may write off this result as a Blue State phenomenon, it’s important to realize that the GOP made a clean sweep of these races the last two times America had a first year Democratic President — 1993 and 2009 — and both were followed by a huge GOP wins in the midterms. Also, the GOP won the last California recall decisively. While the GOP remains the favorite to take back the House next year, this level of national weakness by the GOP points to an important data point against that prevailing conventional wisdom. It also highlights their complete inability to reach suburban, moderate voters in each of these 4 races.

Past GOP Strength

It wasn’t that long ago that Republicans could win all three major off year races: NJ, VA, and NYC — based on their strength in the suburbs and with moderate, pro-business voters. This was best exemplified in the Governor’s races in Virginia and NJ, two states dominated by the kind of suburban swing voters who used to vote Republican regularly. Even New York City (with a population larger than all but a dozen states) has a huge number of moderate voters who helped the GOP keep Gracie Mansion for 20 years. That appears to have completely changed now, but it’s worth looking back to off year elections past.

1993

In 1993 Virginia was a reliably Republican state in Presidential elections (Obama became the first Democrat since LBJ to carry it). However, the state Democratic Party had a strong hold on the Governor’s mansion until George Allen broke the 12-year winning streak of Democrats in 1993. He did it by running negative ads on Virginia AG Mary Sue Terry:

He also linked her to the unpopular Democrat in the White House- Bill Clinton (at 15:20 mark):

The same dynamics were at play in New Jersey — a state that had voted Republican in 6 straight contests until Bill Clinton won the state in 1992. What followed was a campaign that was negative to an unprecedented degree, by Democratic Governor Jim Florio:

His Republican challenger, Christine Todd Whitman, also went negative:

However, Whitman won to a large degree because of her moderate credentials. In their debate, Whitman discussed the proposed Clinton health care plan saying surprisingly that government has a role! (At the17-minute mark):

She also appeared on the controversial and raunchy Howard Stern show, a move that brought condemnation from the religious right, but showed that she was independent of them. She even named a NJ rest stop after Stern:

Pop culture was also a factor in the New York Mayor’s race in 1993, which was featured prominently in an episode of Seinfeld that featured a cameo by the winning candidate Rudy Giuliani:

The race between him and the first African American Mayor David Dinkins had ugly racial overtones. This facet came to the fore when in 1992 Giuliani incited a riot by police officers protesting Dinkins:

However, Giuliani was helped by an ad campaign that featured him as a nice family man:

The result was a victory that began a 20-year run of Republican dominance in overwhelmingly Democratic New York City — a feat that today seems an impossibility for the Trump GOP.

2009

Fast forward to 2009. Despite Obama’s landslide victory the year before, which included wins in Virginia, and blowout victories in New Jersey and New York City, the GOP once again swept all three major races. There was Bob McDonnell’s blowout victory in Virginia:

This occurred despite charges of sexism and religious radicalism by Democrat Creigh Deeds:

McDonnell successfully defended himself from these attacks:

New Jersey saw another Republican win, this time by Chris Christie, who prevailed despite Obama’s popularity in the state:

Christie also overcame Democratic Governor Jon Corzine’s attempt to attack him over his weight:

Christie effectively responded to the ad:

In New York City, Mike Bloomberg won on the Republican line by casting his Democratic challenger Bill Thompson as a tax and spend liberal:

Bloomberg’s victory happened despite him reneging on his promise to honor term limits, as his Democratic challenger Bill Thompson pointed out:

The result was a narrow victory, but another trophy for the GOP:

2003 California Recall

2021 will feature not just three major elections, but four — with a statewide recall for Governor likely to occur in California. While California seems solidly blue these days — it was just over a decade ago that the state had a Republican Governor courtesy of the last recall in 2003. That Governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, one of the world’s biggest movie stars, announced his run-on Jay Leno’s Tonight Show:

During the campaign he impressed with a debate performance in which he told Arianna Huffington she should be in Terminator 4 (at the 29-minute mark):

He then won campaigning as a moderate, pro-environment, pro-education Republican:

2021

Contrast all this to the present day where the VA GOP is heading into the Governor’s Race as clear underdogs, with Larry Sabato rating the race as “Leaning Democrat”, and Charlie Cook rating the race as “Likely Democrat”. This is because they nominated a candidate, Glenn Youngkin, who has embraced Trump in ads and online:

Youngkin spent months refusing to say if Biden was the legitimately elected President. He followed this by campaigning with Sen. Ted Cruz:

Ted Cruz had also done ads comparing Youngkin to Trump:

This embrace of Trump has occurred despite many Virginia voters saying that Trump was “definitely worse than most” of the past several presidents! This will cause the GOP to face long odds against former Governor Terry Mcauliffe, who holds a commanding lead in the Democratic Primary, which will be held on June 8th. It’s even worse in New Jersey for the GOP, which features a Democratic Governor with high favorable ratings:

He also has a well-funded ad campaign:

Leaving his leading GOP opponent, Asm. Jack Ciattarelli to attack the lockdowns retroactively:

Meanwhile, the other major GOP opponent Hirsh Singh is going full MAGA. Here he is speaking at a #StopTheSteal Rally:

Here he is condemning the “Crisis at the Border, which is about 2000 miles from New Jersey:

The distance also hasn’t stopped a leading GOP candidate for Mayor of New York City, Fernando Mateo, from appearing on Newsmax to attack the “Crisis at the Border”:

However, he seems reasonable compared to his GOP mayoral opponent, Guardian Angel founder Curtis Sliwa. An advocate of vigilante violence, he also has a long history of racist behavior:

Their debate was about as enlightened and informed as you would expect:

Neither NYC or NJ will fall into the GOP column this fall, and the same looks to be true of California where the Republicans are running John Cox, who previously lost his race for Governor to Gavin Newsome in 2018. He has taken to campaigning around the state with actual grizzly bear by his side:

Another major GOP candidate, reality star and former Olympic champion Caitlin Jenner, came out against trans female athletes and endorses Trump — despite being perhaps the most famous trans woman in America:

This year speaks to an enormous decline in GOP fortunes. The Party could once compete in even the bluest states, and still can if they run a moderate, anti-Trump Republican. The best examples of this are Charlie Baker, the governor of Massachusetts, who condemns Trump’s actions in very strong terms:

Another successful Republican is Phil Scott, Governor of Vermont, who voted for Biden over Trump:

In a state whose respective Senators are Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, you have popular twice elected Republican Governors. One would think this would be a lesson for the GOP — after all imagine how similar candidates could do in states like NJ or CA. Instead, as last week’s ouster of Liz Cheney shows, they are going in the opposite direction. All of which will lead to a winless 2021 for the GOP. While conventional wisdom still favors them to win the House in the 2022 midterms, unlike 2010 or 1994, the GOP will have to do it following a completely winless 2021.

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