- Political winners and losers and drama on Capitol Hill.
- If you're a Democrat, President Biden won your seat by 16 points, you're in a competitive race next year.
- [Moderator] Republicans celebrate key wins on election night.
- On day one I will ban critical race theory from being in our school system.
- [Moderator] Including a stunning GOP victory in Virginia.
Half of the party focuses on race, education, and the economy - We are ready, to become a Boston for everyone.
- [Moderator] Also, historic wins by candidates of color.
Meanwhile, - What congressional Dems start carrying a cough?
- There is no way that you can say that a 12 point swing in a state is due to Congress not passing a bill.
- [Moderator] Democrats point fingers, following critical losses and a narrow win in New Jersey.
- I'm asking every house member to vote, yes on both these bills, right now.
Let's show the world, that America's democracy can deliver and propel our economy forward.
- [Moderator] And president Biden keeps pushing his party to unite and make his agenda law.
Plus some good news on COVID and jobs.
- [Narrator] This is Washington Week.
Once again, from Washington, moderator Yamiche Alcindor.
- Good evening and welcome to Washington Week.
Tuesday's elections left the GOP feeling hopeful and ready for the midterms.
But Democrats are reeling from key losses and close calls.
In Virginia, Republican Glenn Youngkin, a first time, self-financed candidate beat Terry McAuliffe, a veteran Democrat and former Virginia governor.
Youngkin won by focusing on the economy and by making race and education a centerpiece of his message to voters.
McAuliffe, on the other hand, tried unsuccessfully to push back.
- What we will not do is teach our children to view everything through a lens of race.
We will ban Critical Race Theory from our school system on day one.
- He's bringing his personal culture wars into our classrooms.
Let me tell you this, I promise you, we will not let Glenn Youngkin use our young children, our students as political pawns for his political campaign.
- It's important to note that critical race theory is not taught in Virginia public schools.
But the GOP voters, motivated by that issue, and others turned out in record numbers.
Meanwhile, in New Jersey, Democrat Phil Murphy narrowly won his second term as governor.
He was the first Democrat in 44 years to win reelection in that state.
There were also some historic wins.
Republican Winsome Sears was elected the first black woman Lieutenant Governor of Virginia and became the first woman of color to win statewide in office there.
- I am at a loss for words for the first time in my life.
What you are looking at is the American dream.
The American dream.
- And in Pittsburgh, Ed Gainey was elected the city's first black mayor.
And in Boston, Michelle Wu became the first woman and person of color to be elected mayor.
Now joining me tonight to discuss what all of this means for President Biden's agenda and elections in 2022 and 2024.
Yes, I know we're talking about those years already.
Errin Haines, editor at large for the 19th.
And joining me in studio Eva McKend, National Politics Reporter for CNN.
Kelly O'Donnell, the new Senior White House Correspondent for NBC News here.
So congratulations for that.
And Dave Wasserman, Senior Editor for The Cook Political Report with Amy Walter.
Well, thank you all for being here.
Errin, I want to start with you.
The GOP they had a great election night and a lot of it was focusing on race and education.
I wonder what your biggest takeaway is from the fact that that strategy worked, especially when you think about our country's history and sort of where we have been as a country and where we're going.
- Yeah, well Yamiche, let me add my congratulations to Kelly, too.
I'm so jealous that I'm not in studio with all of you tonight.
It's nice to be in person again, but listen critical race theory is the big lie of 2021 and the modern day southern strategy that is appealing to white voters.
Education is the 2020 version of economic grievance.
You know, that code buzzword from 2016, but listen, I mean, I was covering race as a reporter for The Associated Press before I became Editor At Large at the 19th.
I know from talking to voters and from covering campaigns, race-based appeals to voters are increasingly a perennial aspect of GOP politics.
It's one that the former president certainly capitalized on in his elections, but it's not new to our politics in this country.
And it's one that current candidates are testing to see how successful this strategy can remain.
And we saw that that was effective at least in Virginia, on Tuesday night, as you mentioned, record turnout on both sides.
Democrats and Republicans got more votes in this gubernatorial race than they did in 2020 and in 2017.
But ultimately you saw Youngkin winning out.
And this was part of the message that resonated with Virginia voters.
- And a quick follow up Errin, which is, there are a lot of people who couldn't even define what critical race theory was, especially people who were against it being taught in schools, even though it's not taught in schools.
I wonder what you make of that, the people's ability, not to even be able to define what they are against, but also being very motivated by it.
Politics are emotional and you don't get a more emotional voter than a parent in a conversation about education.
Education being the second most popular issue with voters in Virginia, according to some of the polling that we saw, but look, this fight isn't even about critical race theory.
As we saw a lot of people weren't even really sure what critical race theory was.
They just knew they didn't want it.
But this is really just about kind of a larger conversation on a continuum in our country and frankly in Virginia, about how history should be taught in our schools and recognized in our society.
The 1619 Project by Nicole Hannah Jones has certainly been a part of this.
The case for tearing down Confederate monuments has been part of this.
You know, there's still a debate among some people in this country about what the Civil War was actually about.
Whether it was about slavery or whether it was about states' rights.
So, you know, the idea that history can't really be changed, but it can be forgotten if it is not taught is something that we have to consider in this conversation.
And we would think that we've already learned this lesson as a country, and yet we find ourselves here again, because race remains, again, so potent in our politics.
- Race absolutely is remaining potent.
Dave, I want to come to you because you called this Youngkin race at 8:25.
I saw your tweet and thought, okay, maybe I can go to sleep now because Dave has basically called this.
Several hours later, the networks followed you in that.
I wonder what, can you talk a little a bit about how much this GOP playbook that Glenn Youngkin ran, can it be replicated in 2022 and even 2024?
But also talk a little bit about the raw numbers that you saw and that you've been looking at.
- Oh, a couple of scary things here for Democrats.
The first was the consistency of the swing towards the Republicans that we saw on Tuesday.
You know, Virginia is a state that voted for Biden by 10 voted for Youngkin by 2.5.
New Jersey, a state that voted for Biden by 16, it looks like Phil Murphy is going to win by three and a half.
So if you were to superimpose that 12.5 swing on the entire House of Representatives in 2022, Democrats would lose 51 seats.
Keep in mind, Republicans only need to pick up five seats for the majority.
So this is wave territory.
But the other scary part here is that Republicans are having success running candidates in the suburbs who don't look or sound like Trump.
Terry McAuliffe's message the last two weeks was essentially Glenn Youngkin is Glenn Trumpkin.
Every day under his governorship would be some version of Charlottesville or January 6th.
Voters didn't buy it.
Glenn Youngkin comes from the corporate boardroom.
Virginia voters actually like those kinds of candidates, they elected Mark Warner, right?
And it shows that Democrats are having trouble translating what's going on in DC to voters everyday concerns, right?
Voters are not looking at the infrastructure package and the debate over it as addressing their top two concerns.
Which are right now the cost of living and education.
And on education, I don't think it was so much that voters endorsed Glenn Youngkin's position on critical race theory so much as it became a catchall for parents' frustration over what's happened with schools the last 20 months with closures.
And when voters aren't happy with the status quo, they look for alternatives.
- And it did become a catchall.
Especially when you think about transgender rights.
When you think about the rights of LGBTQ people.
That was all sort of lumped into this critical race theory thought.
I also, though, want to stick with you, Dave, because I want to talk about Democrats and specifically, they're losing white voters.
I was looking at some numbers that NBC put out there.
They were talking about white, rural voters.
They were also talking about voters without college education.
Do Democrats have an issue here with their hemorrhaging of these specific voters?
Or maybe it's not as pronounced.
- Look, this has been a growing problem for Democrats for a long time.
And Terry McAuliffe won Fairfax County, the largest county in Virginia, by 30 points.
He still lost the state because rural white turnout was extraordinary.
Look, if you'd told me before Tuesday, the Terry McAuliffe would win close to 1.6 million votes.
I would've said he'd probably win, but he lost because the Trump base turnout was so massive.
They are fired up at Joe Biden.
The intensity of opposition to Democrats in Washington has amped up a lot in the past couple months.
And I think one of the exclamation points underlying, you know, in the down-ballot was that Democrats lost two districts, south of Richmond that are plurality black.
And it wasn't because black voters defected to Republicans.
It wasn't because black turnout was poor.
It was that rural white turnout was phenomenal.
- Eva, you, first of all, I should say, thank you for coming back on the show.
Now you're with CNN.
So I want to congratulate you as well for your new gig.
You spent a lot of time covering the Virginia race.
You were talking to a lot of voters.
I saw a lot of your stories.
Talk a bit about what you think Democrats did here, how they failed to win this race.
But also, I wonder if you could talk a little bit about what it means for future elections.
- So Terry McAuliffe focused so intensely on Trump, that it came at the expense of, or what it did was it drowned out all of his other issues.
If you are just a casual observer of this race, you would think that Glenn Youngkin ran the more policy focused campaign.
And I think that that actually is a complicated take.
He ran an issues-focused campaign, and he was very disciplined with his message.
But there wasn't a lot of depth to his day one game plan.
It was succinct.
It was easy to understand, he repeated it over and over on the trail.
You could go to his website and read sort of the paragraph long plan by, but Terry McAuliffe, he had pages and pages of policy on his website.
He had a 14 page plan for lifting up black Virginians.
But you didn't think of that when you thought about Terry McAuliffe, all you thought was about Donald Trump.
And so that was a really big mistake.
There was a woman on the campaign trail that came up to Terry McAuliffe and said, Hey, don't forget about the climate.
And in his gregarious, you know, politician way, he goes, go to my website, you know, read the plan.
And I'm thinking, why don't you, why aren't you leading with this?
Why are you leading with characterizing Glenn Youngkin as Trump?
Another aspect of this race is Youngkin's team really kept him shielded from, I would say, lengthy interviews, right?
So there wasn't a lot of picking away at the day one game plan.
There wasn't the opportunity to ask him really rigorous questions.
I would have loved to have had the opportunity to ask him besides content of your character, what other messages and readings from Dr. King informs his ideology?
I would have loved to have asked him more about this critical race theory.
That has become an umbrella term for diversity equity and inclusion, white supremacy, systemic racism.
It's become a catchall for everything.
That is how conservatives define it.
Not as just the academic legal theory that it is.
- And you're saying that you're, you would have loved to ask those questions.
I would have loved to see him answer those questions that you were just posing to him, because I think they're critical questions that we didn't get answered by by him.
I want to go to you Kelly, because you were traveling with the president, he was landing and, and of course, as he's landing to the news that Youngkin lost.
I wonder, what does the president think about, sort of, how his own standing impacted how Democrats did on election night?
And does he have, is there any sort of strategy change?
Talks of strategy change within The White House?
- Well, this should have been an alarm going off everywhere in the Biden White House, about some of the factors that Dave talked about with the numbers.
And we should see some of that play out in some changes if they're going to be listening to this seriously.
At the same time, I think they were quite willing to separate themselves from the candidate mistakes that Terry McAuliffe made.
And let's remember, Terry McAuliffe is part of the old guard of politicians.
Glenn Youngkin, a fresher newer face as a politician, that may have played into some of this too.
You've got the fear and the fatigue and the fire of this election.
Where you have people who are just tired of COVID rules, tired of some of the wariness of what life has been like.
You had Youngkin talking about things like grocery store bills.
That's the kind of stuff that Joe Biden needs to be talking about.
Those everyday issues.
And now after the election, some new fire from President Biden, trying to get his own agenda pass.
Putting new pressure on Democrats in Congress to act saying it would have been helpful if they had gotten more done.
But is there enough of a connection?
We know that history is a part of this, too.
Typically the party not of The White House has a better night in these midterms.
Well boy, did that play out and then some.
So they have headwinds that are of their own making sort of, of the landscape and historical, All kind of conspiring against the fate of the political winds for Joe Biden.
Can he turn the momentum?
Good job numbers today, That's something that would have been helpful before the election.
If that is something that can help turn the corner that may be useful for the president.
But there are real lessons for the Biden White House to be learned from this election.
Will they listen?
And will they change some of the strategy on how they talk about some of these issues?
That's what we'll be watching.
- Well, that's a good, that's a critical question.
On Wednesday, I also questioned the president about how Democrats plan to counter the culture war strategy being used successfully by the GOP.
- What's your message though for democratic voters, especially black voters, who see Republicans running on race education, lying about critical race theory.
And they're worried that Democrats don't have an effective way to push back on that?
- Well, I think that the whole answer is just to speak the truth.
Lay out where we are.
I just think people are at a point, and it's understandable, where there's a whole lot of confusion.
Everything from, are you gonna ever get COVID under control?
To are my kids going to be in school?
And they're all things that we're gonna, that I'm running on, we'll run on.
And I think we'll do fine.
- Errin, what do you make of the president's response there, based on your reporting?
And what does it say about, sort of, Democrats ability to talk about these issues in a way that really, I think gets at the sort of worries that democratic base voters who are worried about Democrats losing on Tuesday?
I wonder if you could talk a bit about what his response might mean to those voters?
- Well, Yamiche, Democrats, at least in Virginia, there was no real response.
You know, McAuliffe certainly attempted to respond to the critical race theory question.
One of his final ads featured Tony Morrison had, you know, a voiceover with Danny Glover kind of telling black voters, you know, we know what this is about.
Don't let them try to take your voice in those final hours.
But, you know, turn out really was not the question.
As was mentioned before in this program, you saw record turnout from Democrats and from Republicans.
And so it was not an issue of turnout, but there is a messaging issue.
When it comes to race, Democrats are going to have to figure out how to address this because race is going to be a part of the playbook in 2022, 2024 and beyond because it is effective.
To Kelly's point.
You know, we don't know how much of a factor infrastructure and the Build Back Better bill's passing would have been in this election.
We didn't have a chance to find out because those bills were not taken up before Election Day.
You know, I think that for Democrats, for black voters, a lot of the black voters that I talked to, they are certainly wondering, I mean, here we are, this week was a year out from that historic election where you saw black voters as part of the coalition that sent Biden and Harris to The White House that gave them a democratic majority in Congress.
And a year later, a lot of those black voters are wondering kind of what they got for those efforts.
Where are, is you know, where is this administration on police reform?
How hard are they fighting on voting rights still, right?
You saw the Senate rejecting, once again, a federal voting rights legislation, even as voter suppression bills continue to be put into place at the state level.
So, you know, I think for black voters, not only are they concerned with kind of the culture war that they are seeing continue to play out at the state level and in our national politics, but they are also very much wondering where their policy priorities are in terms of this administration, And in terms of the other elected lawmakers that they helped send to office a year ago this week.
- And to Errin's point, on Wednesday, Senate Republicans blocked the John R. Lewis voting act.
The bill was designed to restore some protections from the landmark 1965 voting rights act.
This is the second major voting rights bill derailed by a GOP filibuster in the last two weeks.
Eva, Democrats, they don't have a successful strategy right now, while the GOP has been really, really efficient and successful in passing these laws.
I wonder when you talk to voters, how much is that on their mind?
- It is somewhat.
Ultimately, I don't think that because Democrats weren't able to pass a bill, I think that the impact on Terry McAuliffe maybe has been overstated, but it certainly could have helped him.
The same voters Democrats keep coming back to, they're looking for results.
They're not just looking for talk.
I also want to say though, that this idea that Youngkin sort of ran up the margins in white rural areas.
I don't think the Democrats, the sense that I get from them is that they can't continue to sort of just see those voters.
They, I think, need to elevate candidates.
Perhaps progressive candidates of color with backgrounds similar economically to white rural voters that can speak to those communities.
- And Dave really quick, because we want to talk about what's going on on Capitol Hill, but I have to sort of ask you, you know, there's New Jersey, there's what's going on in New York, but there's also, you know, we got good news today on COVID there's this pill that might be effective for helping people, the most at risk stay out of the hospital.
Kids are also getting vaccinated.
I wonder, based on that, do these numbers at all, I guess, does that have any impact on Democrats?
Can they they seize on that?
Or is it just going to be part of the polarization of all this?
- I guess the best news for Democrats is that there are still 12 months to go until the midterms and a lot can change.
What were we talking about 12 months ago?
Well, we thought that, based on the polls, Joe Biden and Kamala Harris were going to win by eight to 10 points.
That didn't end up exactly being right.
20 months ago, Joe Biden's political aspirations were on life support after coming in fifth place in the New Hampshire primary.
And you know, we're talking about mortgaging his house perhaps to keep his presidential campaign alive.
So things can change a lot in a year, right?
And it's possible.
It's possible that, we could see a rebounded Biden's approval if we're not talking about COVID next year, if inflation is not as severe as predicted.
But really the number one issue that that voters are feeling that they're telling their members of Congress about right now is the rising cost of goods.
And if Democrats can't get it under control, the party and power is going to suffer.
And meanwhile, the other thing we want to talk about, because those are important issues is, that after weeks of negotiations, Democrats still haven't reached a final deal on passing the president's agenda at this hour.
On Friday, House Speaker, Nancy Pelosi said she planned to hold votes on the infrastructure plans and see where things land.
- We're in the best place ever today to be able to go forward.
We have not had this level of progress.
- But it's unclear whether progressive and moderate Democrats will be able to come together.
Kelly, you have reporting that the president is basically on the phone trying to get his party to vote tonight.
It's still, maybe early in their minds.
Where do things stand right now?
And how much is the president trying to push this through?
- This has been a trust exercise and the president is really going all in tonight.
Now you would think that would have already happened.
This has been going on for months, but tonight the president is asking, according to our reporting, house Democrats to trust him that if they vote for the infrastructure bill, that he will garner the support needed to also deliver the Build Back Better bill, as they describe it, the more sweeping climate and social programs bill.
The concern Progressives have had is if you decouple those two bills, that you'll pass the bipartisan infrastructure bill and the other will languish and not pass.
One of the challenges has been these two wings of the party, moderates who have their concerns, who now have been taught a real lesson with Tuesday's results, concerned about big spending, concerned about some of those deficit questions.
We don't have the formal CBO score associated with that bill yet.
They have raised concerns.
Progressive's, who are greater in number have had just a tremendous run in terms of using their influence, are holding off because they have demanded these two bills be together the whole way.
And here in this kind of 11th hour, decoupling them sort of changes their strategy.
Can they go forward?
This is such a test because the house is due to be out.
When you look at the available calendar left for actual legislating, it's really dwindling.
And so if they're going to get something done, this is really the time.
And it appears the president is finally using the, I need you to vote card, which he really has not done up until this point.
So that's very notable.
- And Eva, you were a long time Capitol Hill reporter, your thoughts on what's going on.
- Well, I, you know, I think that moderates and progressives are just captured in this perennial struggle.
And we'll just have to see ultimately if they are able to get this together.
But the longer that it drags on, the worst that it looks for the president and for the party.
How can you continue to ask for people's votes, when you have control of the house, the Senate, the white house.
And this complete lack of cohesion, it makes everyone look weak.
I will say this.
I think the reflexive response from moderates as a result of the election results, was maybe no surprise.
We should move forward with moderation.
But the energy, I think, in the democratic caucus is with progressives, the excitement.
And I don't necessarily think it might be the best strategy to tamp them down and to weaken, sort of, where all of, I think the most excitement from the party is coming from right now.
- Well that we're going to continue to watch that situation.
It's just moving and developing hour by hour.
So we'll keep you updated.
That's it for tonight.
Thank you to Errin, Eva, Kelly, and Dave for your reporting.
And thank you for joining us.
And tune in next week to the PBS News Hour for Taliban Takeover.
Jane Ferguson is on the ground in Afghanistan, as millions there face starvation and what officials are warning is becoming the world's largest humanitarian crisis.
And finally, today at the Washington National Cathedral, many gathered for the funeral of General Colin Powell.
He was the first black us secretary of state, chairman of the joint chiefs of staff and national security advisor.
He helped shape the foreign policies of several Republican administrations.
Rest in peace, General Powell.
We'll continue our conversation about elections and the future of politics on the Washington Week Extra.
Find it on our website, Facebook, and YouTube.
I'm Yamiche Alcindor, goodnight from Washington.