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EXCLUSIVE: Republicans across Virginia are hoping the political playbook Gov. Glenn Youngkin used to an upset victory last year will help them flip several U.S. Houses this midterm cycle.
GOP congressional candidates and operatives told Fox News Digital that Youngkin’s style and approach to politics could be the key to bringing the red tide to a state that has long had a trend in favor of the Democrats.
“Youngkin made independents and Democrats vote Republican,” said Karina Lipsman, the Republican candidate for Virginia’s 8th Congressional District. “People want change and focusing on common sense solutions is really what people want, they don’t want partisan politics.”
Youngkin, who has gained a national profile despite being in office for less than nine months, won the Virginia governorship in an upset last year despite never running for office before. The former business executive beat a popular former governor in a race that took on national proportions.
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GOP candidate Karina Lipsman speaks on Fox News Digital on August 20, 2022.
(Fox News Digital/Haris Alic)
Democrats tried to campaign primarily on former President Trump, who is unpopular among northern Virginia suburbanites. However, Youngkin didn’t take the bait, choosing to de-emphasize Trump and focus on kitchen-table issues like the economy and education.
The end result was that Youngkin improved Trump’s margins in 2020 in suburban and exurban northern Virginia, without seeing a drop in turnout among rural voters who make up the GOP’s base. He also won two congressional districts currently held by vulnerable Democrats and came within five points of flipping a third in northern Virginia.
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Youngkin told Fox News Digital during an interview over the weekend that the issues highlighted by his winning campaign would also carry Republicans to victory in congressional races this cycle.
“Inflation is running out of control. We need to make sure our schools work for parents and children… and [that] we’re advocating for law enforcement to keep our communities safe,” the governor said. “These are the kitchen table issues that will win Virginia, it’s what won last year.”
Virginia Republican gubernatorial candidate Glenn Youngkin speaks during a campaign event at the Old Town Alexandria Farmers Market in Alexandria, Virginia October 30, 2021. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
While the issues are important, Virginia Republicans are also trying to replicate Youngkin’s style and brand of politics. They say national Republicans have been painted for too long as a party of out-of-touch country-club elites or irascible conservatives.
Jim Myles, the Republican candidate for Virginia’s 11th congressional district, argued that Youngkin had changed the party’s image, at least in Virginia, by emphasizing a positive message.
“I’m trying to emulate the governor’s style,” Myles said. “He has been a very successful businessman, and he is very positive in his approach. He did not go out to attack anything, he ran on the issues.”
GOP candidate Jim Myles speaks on Fox News Digital on August 20, 2022.
(Fox News Digital/Haris Alic)
The argument for Republican candidates to reach out to Youngkin is that more Virginians approve of the governor’s job performance than disapprove. A recent poll conducted by Virginia Commonwealth University found that 49% of voters approved of Youngkin, and 38% disapproved.
Virginia Republicans aren’t the only ones trying to replicate Youngkin’s success this November.
“Since last November, every [Republican National Committee] Meeting I watch a state party chairman, usually at least half a dozen during a meeting, come up and say, ‘Tell me what happened in Virginia, how did you do it,'” said Republican Party Chairman Rich Anderson of Virginia.
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All the political attention has political observers and supporters wondering whether Youngkin, who is term-limited to seek re-election under Virginia’s constitution, could be weighing a 2024 presidential bid.
Youngkin told Fox News Digital that right now he was focused on delivering to voters and also helping Republicans succeed this cycle.
“2024 is a long way off,” the governor said. “We’re focused right now on 2022.”
Haris Alic covers Congress and politics for Fox News Digital. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter at @realharisalic.