How Youngkin came from behind to take a famous victory

Youngkin / McAuliffe Net Sentiment

Week 5

Biden Unpopularity Puts McAuliffe Win in Jeopardy


McAuliffe looks in a relatively comfortable position (NS*-1). Attacks on his comments towards parental involvement in schools are starting to bite (and need his clarification), but  otherwise he appears relatively unscathed. However McAuliffe’s big concern is Biden whose unpopularity within the state (NS -19) will likely have a negative impact on Democratic turnout and threaten his chances of victory.


Youngkin is a solid and likeable candidate. Yet his campaign is having limited success in deflecting McAuliffe’s charge that he is Trumpian. In addition he is being wounded by his approach to areas of policy such as Covid 19, guns and abortion. Furthermore his attempts to out McAuliffe’s failures and campaign promises are having little impact (NS -13).



Week 4

Youngkin Momentum Puts McAuliffe on High Alert

McAuliffe’s campaign jumps +11pts (NS +10) as his campaign ratchets up. Seen as the continuity candidate, his supporters show a general contentment with keeping the state blue. Meanwhile much of the criticism from the Right seems to be confined to GOP echo chambers.


However, real anger stoked by the parents in education issue persists.

Youngkin enjoys an even greater jump in momentum +14pts (NS +1) than his rival with voters encouraged by a seemingly honest and decent candidate. They also start to voice their disapproval of critical race theory (in education), and support Youngkin on wider policy areas. Yet if he wants to close the gap he needs more than an increasing level of polite applause.



Week 3

Trump Intervention Fails to Boost McAuliffe

McAuliffe is gifted an open goal as Trump confirms what has been asserted all along – Youngkin is his guy. In addition a rally in support of Youngkin’s candidacy pledges allegiance to a flag used on Jan 6. Yet despite a big effort, McAuliffe fails to fully capitalize which suggests that the Youngkin/Trump link may be less potent than it appears. Furthermore Youngkin’s fightback results in McAuliffe actually losing 5pts (NS +10 to +5) over the period.


Youngkin shows his inner strength by refusing to roll over and instead doubles down on his education/CRT attack. As a consequence, despite losing 7pts (NS -6), the loss is relative to his rival and so keeps him in the game. However, he still trails McAuliffe and needs to give VA voters more to talk about if he is to get ahead with just two weeks remaining.


Week 2

Youngkin Nudges Ahead

McAuliffe enjoys his best period to date as he is applauded home by Democrats desperate keep the state blue. This is boosted by Obama/Harris’ visit to the state who help spread the anti Trump message and enthuse their supporters to help get out the vote. Yet this is no match for the super drive of his rival. Team McAuliffe appear out of steam and reliant on Democratic royalty to get them over the line +2 (NS +7)


Youngkin responds to the need for action by associating the reading of ‘Beloved’ to the importance of parental involvement in schools. This is complemented by attacks on McAuliffe linking him to blackface, gas tax, and accusing the Left of failing to protect children. The culmination of this saw Youngkin jump 15pts which puts him in the lead for the first time. Crucially, it is now Youngkin who is making all the weather (NS +9).


Week 1

Youngkin Increases Momentum as Polling Day Arrives

McAuliffe has success in refocusing the parents/education controversy by talking about his own record on education while in office which is well received. Overall he also enjoys a big jump in the volume of online support as Democratic voters lapped up the final tour of McAuliffe’s greatest hits which includes, Covid-19, women’s rights, jobs/economy and healthcare. Final NS score +6.


Youngkin’s final week ends with him riding a wave of his own making by driving home his anti woke commitment towards education and child protection. As a consequence, Youngkin’s campaign finished on an all time high with the volume of posts in his name more than doubling, over taking McAuliffe for the first time. Final NS score +10.



Final standings – McAuliffe NS +6, Youngkin NS +10.

Youngkin wins by NS +4

*NS - Net Sentiment of the discussion in relation to each candidate





Biden’s dire net sentiment has improved only slightly over the period, moving up 2pts (NS-19 to -17). The majority of the negativity is driven by Right leaning conversations from within the state who initially criticized the president over his decisions on immigration and Afghanistan. This discussion later morphs into his handing of the economy – specifically inflation – and the increase in Covid deaths. Throughout they mock Biden for his lack of presence and leadership suggesting that even the Democrats didn’t think he would be this bad.


Biden can be forgiven for being frustrated by the impasse over his two great infrastructure and social bills. Should they have passed his net sentiment would surely be more positive, benefitting McAuliffe. Yet their absence created a void in national political conversation and the White House’s inability to fill the vacuum is a welcome gift Republicans enabling them to link Biden’s ineffectiveness to McAuliffe..


Yet the real danger for McAuliffe was from within Democratic circles. It is striking how few come out to defend Biden. Some speak of bill content, or that life is more civilized now than under his predecessor, yet such comments are thin gruel.  This palpable level of disappointment undoubtably had an impact on turnout for McAuliffe. In fact it might be considered a deciding factor in such a tight race leaving Democratic Party leaders in a tough spot at they head into the midterms.


Biden - Negative Sentiment



You might also be interested in:
Successfully predicting the outcome of the US Presidential Election
2018 US Senate Midterm elections