Democrats fear Virginia is precursor to House drubbing

Democrat Terry McAuliffeTerry McAuliffePsaki claps back at Youngkin over school mask mandates Youngkin inaugurated as first GOP Virginia governor in over a decade Centrist Democrats urge progressives to tamp down rhetoric MORE’s drubbing in Tuesday’s gubernatorial contest in Virginia has sparked new fears for House Democrats that they could lose their majority in a blowout in the 2022 midterms.

The lawmakers say party leaders need to rethink their strategy heading into those elections to prevent a repeat of the devastating defeat majority Democrats took more than a decade ago in the 2010 midterms.

“It's a wakeup call — and we'd better learn from it,” said Rep. Cheri BustosCheryl (Cheri) Lea BustosOn The Trail: Retirements offer window into House Democratic mood One year later: A lesson Democrats confront rising retirements as difficult year ends MORE (Ill.), former head of the Democrats’ campaign arm. “We've got exactly a year to go.”

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The lawmakers say that McAuliffe’s stunning loss in a state that President BidenJoe BidenMacro grid will keep the lights on Pelosi suggests filibuster supporters 'dishonor' MLK's legacy on voting rights Sanders calls out Manchin, Sinema ahead of filibuster showdown MORE won by 10 points just last year should trigger warning sirens for Democrats, who enjoy a razor-thin majority in the House.

McAuliffe, a one-time Virginia governor, was the favorite through much of the campaign over Republican Glenn YoungkinGlenn YoungkinThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Democrats see victory in a voting rights defeat Psaki claps back at Youngkin over school mask mandates Why our parties can't govern MORE, but saw his advantage disappear in the final months of the contest after Youngkin went on the attack over schools and the issue of race in public education.

A map compiled by The Associated Press showed that, relative to Donald TrumpDonald TrumpSanders calls out Manchin, Sinema ahead of filibuster showdown Laura Ingraham 'not saying' if she'd support Trump in 2024 The Hill's 12:30 Report: Djokovic may not compete in French Open over vaccine requirement MORE’s numbers in 2020, Youngkin had outperformed the former president in every county of the state. 

McAuliffe’s defeat has sparked a new round of internal finger-pointing between liberals and Democratic moderates on Capitol Hill, who’ve already been clashing for months over the size, scope and timing of Biden’s ambitious domestic agenda, including a massive $1.75 trillion package of social benefits and climate programs that remains under negotiations while the feuding factions fight to iron out their differences. 

Tuesday’s results have Republicans smelling blood and increasingly optimistic about their chances of flipping the House in 2022. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin McCarthyThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Democrats see victory in a voting rights defeat Former acting Defense secretary under Trump met with Jan. 6 committee: report GOP's McCarthy has little incentive to work with Jan. 6 panel MORE (R-Calif.) predicted Wednesday that the GOP gains could top 60 seats. 

“If you're a Democrat and President Biden won your seat by 16 points, you're in a competitive race next year. You are no longer safe,” McCarthy told reporters in the Capitol.

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Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (N.Y.), chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, dismissed those warnings. While there were important lessons for Democrats to learn from Tuesday’s results, he said, the party’s standing will improve significantly when Biden’s agenda is adopted.

“We have a plan to help the country; they have a ploy to win power for themselves,” he said.

McAuliffe’s loss was not the only warning sign for the Democrats. In New Jersey, Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy went into his reelection contest on Tuesday boasting a comfortable polling advantage over his Republican challenger, Jack Ciattarelli. As of Wednesday evening, the race was still too close to call.  

“These results should be an alarm clock rousing us from sleep,” said Rep. Bill PascrellWilliam (Bill) James PascrellDemocrats' loose talk of 'disqualification' still dangerous Ukraine president, US lawmakers huddle amid tensions with Russia Democrats gain edge from New Jersey Redistricting Commission-approved maps MORE (D-N.J.).

As Democrats were digesting the grim gubernatorial results on Wednesday, a number of lawmakers lamented that, after months of talks, the party has still failed to coalesce around legislation that can pass through both chambers. 

“We have had a robust debate, but so far voters have only seen the process, not the benefits,” said Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.), a former lieutenant governor. 

Many lawmakers said the impasse has created public perceptions of Biden and the Democrats as ineffective legislators — perceptions that likely damaged McAuliffe’s standing in Virginia.

“We need to deliver,” Rep. Paul TonkoPaul David TonkoHillicon Valley — Inside the Twitter shakeup Lawmakers take aim at 'Grinches' using bots to target consumers during holidays Democrats fear Virginia is precursor to House drubbing MORE (D-N.Y.) said, adding that “it would have been different” for McAuliffe if congressional Democrats had been able to move Biden’s agenda before Tuesday’s contest. The message from voters is a simple one, he said: “We want action.”

Rep. Ted LieuTed W. LieuSpace race needs better cybersecurity  Buttigieg touts supply achievements at ports of Los Angeles, Long Beach In their own words: Lawmakers, staffers remember Jan. 6 insurrection MORE (Calif.), a leader on the Democrats’ messaging team, offered a similar assessment, saying congressional action almost certainly would have given McAuliffe a boost.

“That may have increased the president's approval ratings,” he said, “and the president's approval ratings are correlated to how well” Democrats fare across the country.

Rep. Derek KilmerDerek Christian KilmerState Democrat group teams up with federal lawmakers to elect down-ballot candidates Washington redistricting panel reaches late agreement on new lines Democrats fear Virginia is precursor to House drubbing MORE (D-Wash.) cautioned against the temptation to “overstate the implications of a single state race.” 

“My observation is that a lot of these gubernatorial races do break down to local issues [and] local candidates,” he said. “When John Bel Edwards won in Louisiana, you know what it told us about how national Democrats were going to do in Louisiana? Nothing.”

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Still, he also acknowledged the persuasive power of passing bills to win support. 

“Generally, when we get stuff done for our constituents, that's a good thing,” he said.