Eyes on 2024: Virginia to test Youngkin’s message and political power

Tuesday’s legislative elections in Virginia will provide key tests for both parties’ messaging ahead of 2024, as well as the state’s GOP governor. 

“I think they’re the most important elections in America because these issues that are so important to Virginians are also the ones that are going to be so important to Americans next year,” Virginia GOP Gov. Glenn Youngkin told ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday.

The battles for the state House of Delegates, which Republicans control, and the state Senate, which Democrats control, could come down to a handful of districts. And they’ll test Youngkin’s own political power as he’s brushed off questions about his presidential ambitions.

NBC’s Gary Grumbach and Katherine Koretski caught up with Youngkin over the weekend while he was campaigning in the Senate’s competitive 10th District, where GOP state Sen. Siobhan Dunnavant is running against Democrat Schuyler Van Valkenburg. 

Youngkin did not bring up abortion, a top issue in competitive races. Youngkin has supported a ban on abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy, and he told NBC News that “all these people know where we stand. These are the issues that I think people are most concerned about — we are most concerned about jobs, inflation, runaway inflation, safe communities, and quality education.”

The Virginia elections have also seen last-ditch efforts to gin up enthusiasm and win over swing voters. Grumbach reports that the state is sending out tax rebates ahead of Tuesday’s election. And on the Democratic side, President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris endorsed 23 Democratic candidates on Saturday.

In other campaign news … 

Rural worries: NBC’s Gabe Gutierrez, Julia Jester and Megan Lebowitz explore Democrats’ struggles to win over rural voters, writing that ”the improving economy remains a tough sell for Biden to rural voters, who already are voting in larger numbers for Republicans.“

Wolverine State worries: As Biden has voiced support for Israel in its war against Hamas, Biden’s support among Muslim and Arab Democrats in Michigan has “cratered” according to a new poll, per NBC’s Alex Seitz-Wald. 

Debate watch: The Republican National Committee raised the thresholds for GOP candidates to qualify for the fourth debate on Dec. 6, per the New York Times. The new qualifications include garnering a minimum of 80,000 donors and reaching the 6% threshold in two qualifying national polls, or one national poll and one early state poll.

Cloudy skies for DeSantis: A Florida Republican Party event over the weekend underscores how Florida GOP Gov. Ron DeSantis is “not only losing the presidential race but also his grip on the Florida GOP grassroots base that helped him secure re-election just one year ago,” writes NBC’s Matt Dixon. 

Behind closed doors: NBC’s Jonathan Allen, Ali Vitali and Megan Lebowitz delve into former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley’s paid private speeches, noting that she did not keep records of what she said to the groups. 

What’s in a name: The term “Bidenomics” to describe the president’s economic agenda “mystifies Americans and confounds even its namesake,” write NBC’s Peter Nicholas, Megan Lebowitz and Carol E. Lee

Looking back: The New York Times chronicled South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott’s 1996 state Senate run, where he challenged a sitting Democratic state senator in a majority Black district and lost.

Doubling down on anti-vaccine rhetoric: Independent presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. “came home” to his anti-vaccine roots at an event last week, per NBC’s Brandy Zadrozny, saying he would direct federal agencies to take “a break” from studying infectious diseases, like Covid-19 and measles, if he is elected president.

He’s running: Former GOP Rep. Peter Meijer, who lost his primary last year to a Trump-backed challenger, announced Monday that he is running in Michigan’s open Senate race. 

A Democrat who’s not campaigning on abortion: Some Democrats in Mississippi are struggling to justify their vote for Public Service Commissioner Brandon Presley in the upcoming gubernatorial election, because he joins GOP Gov. Tate Reeves in supporting the state’s sweeping abortion ban.

Bridget Bowman

Bridget Bowman is a deputy editor for NBC’s Political Unit. 

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