Speed Reads

Where's the screen?

NBC's Steve Kornacki previews what to watch in Virginia's nail-biter governor race

There are three special congressional elections on Tuesday — one Republican-leaning seat and one safe Democratic one in Ohio and a primary for a Democratic stronghold in Florida — plus some interesting mayoral races, ugly school board elections around the U.S., and a Minneapolis vote on whether to swap its current police force for a new Department of Public Safety. And New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy (D) is expected to win re-election against GOP challenger Jack Ciattarelli.

But the race everyone's watching is Virginia's gubernatorial tossup between former Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) and Republican Glenn Youngkin.

NBC political analyst Steve Kornacki previewed what to look for on MSNBC Monday night, without his trademark whiteboard or giant touchscreen, Rachel Maddow explained, "because he's gonna be in front of that darn screen all day tomorrow." 

President Biden won Virginia by 10 percentage points in 2020, and Democrats will be watching Black turnout and what happens with the large number of white voters with college degrees in suburban Richmond and the Northern Virginia suburbs of Washington, D.C., Kornacki explained. Republicans will also be watching the suburbs and turnout numbers in rural, increasingly red parts of the state. He cautioned about reading too much into early returns, noting that Fairfax County, a Democratic stronghold that reported late in 2020, now plans to release Democratic-friendly early votes and mail-in votes soon after polls close. 

"Whether Youngkin's momentum can overcome the state's increasing partisan lean to the left is the central question of the race," Politico reports. Youngkin has been walking a careful line between politely keeping former President Donald Trump at arm's length while trying to convince Trump voters to show up at the polls. "If Youngkin makes inroads in northern Virginia and in the Richmond suburbs, it's a sign he was able to successfully walk the line," The Associated Press reports. "Likewise, if Democrats hold the margins from their successful 2017 gubernatorial race there, it'd be a sign of continued trouble for Republicans in highly educated suburbs."

Republicans will also be watching to see how potent educational culture wars will be in the suburbs, in the statewide races for governor, lieutenant governor, and attorney general but also in the state House races what will determine whether Democrats keep control of the state Legislature.