Youngkin shocker shows Trump isn't needed to win

Glenn YoungkinGlenn YoungkinWinsome Sears to begin historic new chapter as Virginia lt. governor Five issues that will define the months until the midterms  Five reasons for Biden, GOP to be thankful this season MORE's political earthquake of a victory in blue Virginia marks the beginning of the end of the Democratic monopoly on power in Washington. In a refreshing twist, Youngkin won by running a flawless campaign focused not on personalities but on issues such as education and the economy.

Youngkin, a rookie candidate, pulled off this monumental upset without kissing up to Donald TrumpDonald TrumpPence: Supreme Court has chance to right 'historic wrong' with abortion ruling Prosecutor says during trial that actor Jussie Smollett staged 'fake hate crime' Overnight Defense & National Security — US, Iran return to negotiating table MORE or having the former president campaign in the commonwealth. The decision to keep Trump and other Republican heavy-hitters away contrasted with Youngkin's opponent, former Gov. Terry McAuliffe, who brought in a baseball-roster’s worth of Democratic Party stars, including former President Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaWe must eliminate nuclear weapons, but a 'No First Use' Policy is not the answer Building back a better vice presidency Jill Biden unveils traditional White House holiday décor MORE, President Joe Biden, first lady Jill BidenJill BidenWhite House scrambles for safety on holiday parties The Hill's 12:30 Report: Biden's message on the 'omicron' variant Jill Biden unveils traditional White House holiday décor MORE, Vice President Kamala HarrisKamala HarrisBuilding back a better vice presidency Stacey Abrams nominated to board of solar energy firm Emhoff lights first candle in National Menorah-lighting ceremony MORE and failed Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams in an attempt to nationalize a state election. 

“The Youngkin strategy, I think, is a smart one in that he is focused intensely on state and local issues and taking it directly to voters in the suburbs and exurbs where the election will be decided,” Mark J. Rozell, founding dean of the Schar School of Policy and Government at George Mason University, told the AP one day before the election.

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As a result of this victory, as well as all the crises hitting this country, the GOP is on track to pick up at least the four seats needed win back the House of Representatives in 2022. In fact, the number of seats flipped to the GOP will likely be more in the 43-63 range (the number of seats lost by Presidents Trump and Obama in their first terms, respectively). High inflation, a supply chain crisis, a worker shortage, a border catastrophe, the Afghanistan debacle and a perceived anti-parent stance on education has Democrats without a major issue to run on.  

In the Senate, just one seat is needed to make Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellOvernight Defense & National Security — US, Iran return to negotiating table Senate GOP blocks defense bill, throwing it into limbo On The Money — Biden stresses calm amid omicron fears MORE (R-Ky.) the Senate majority leader again.

Meanwhile, the overall drop in Biden’s approval rating has been greater at this point in his presidency than for any other president since World War II, and he's well underwater in every key battleground state (Virginia, Georgia, Arizona, Nevada, Michigan, Wisconsin, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire).

It's become so bad for Biden that a recent NPR/PBS News poll found that just 36 percent of Democratic voters want Biden to run again in 2024. Half of Democrats say the country is on the wrong track. The remorse among the party faithful is very real. 

After a loss like this, some Democrats may run for the hills now on the social spending portion of the "human infrastructure" package, thereby further dooming it well beyond the opposition of Sen. Joe ManchinJoe ManchinSchumer: 'Goal' is to pass Biden spending bill before Christmas The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Biden to update Americans on omicron; Congress back This week: Congress starts year-end legislative sprint MORE (D-W.Va.) and Sen. Kyrsten SinemaKyrsten SinemaSchumer: 'Goal' is to pass Biden spending bill before Christmas No deal in sight as Congress nears debt limit deadline Democratic frustration growing over stagnating voting rights bills MORE (D-Ariz). And if the president and House Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiNews media's sausage-making obsession helps no one Klobuchar confident spending bill will be finished before Christmas Five reasons for Biden, GOP to be thankful this season MORE (D-Calif.) move ahead with the hard infrastructure package, progressives will almost certainly shoot that vote down, taking the whole Blue Team down with it.

In the Virginia race, McAuliffe tried to run against Trump instead of against Youngkin. When the former governor brought in Biden, the current president mentioned Trump 24 times in one relatively short speech. That's what happens when you have nothing to run on, especially on education. 

"I don't think parents should be telling schools what they should teach," McAuliffe said four weeks ago during a debate with Youngkin. The race completely changed from there, with McAuliffe playing defense and Youngkin using the issue to define his opponent, and likely taking back many suburban voters – particularly soccer moms – that Biden had captured one year ago.

“We’re going to have a whole new crop of Republicans come in and define a new way forward,” Youngkin told supporters the day before the election in a 22-minute speech that didn't mention Trump once. 

So, will Youngkin's victory-without-Trump pave the way for GOP presidential candidates to seek the Republican nomination even if Trump decides to pursue it again? 

Likely so. But it will still be a tough hill to climb. 

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According to a recent NPR-PBS NewsHour-Marist poll, 50 percent of Republicans and GOP-leaning independents say Trump gives them a better chance to win in 2024, versus 35 percent who say someone else would. 

On the Democratic side, it's practically curtains for President Biden. On the question of whether Biden was the right candidate to run in 2024, 44 percent of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents said they wanted "someone else" instead of the soon-to-be 79-year-old, with another 20 percent undecided. 

Glenn Youngkin pulled off a Buster Douglas-like upset in the formerly blue state of Virginia. 

He did it by concentrating on the issues, particularly education and the economy. And he did it without the elephant ever entering the state in the form of the 45th president. 

Joe Concha is a media and politics columnist for The Hill.