After staying out of the presidential race to focus on Virginia legislative elections, the Republican governor of Virginia, Glenn Youngkin, lost both the Senate and the House to Democrats in Tuesday's election.
For those who hoped that Youngkin's brand of commonsense, pro-business, pro-parent, religiously inspired politics would be a winner in Virginia this year the way it was when Youngkin was originally elected governor in 2021, it was a disappointment.
But American politics is full of comeback stories—from Bill Clinton, who lost a campaign for re-election for governor of Arkansas in 1980, to Governor Michael Dukakis of Massachusetts, who lost the 1978 Democratic primary in Massachusetts to a challenger named Ed King. Clinton and Dukakis both returned to the governors' offices and to the national political scene. Richard Nixon lost a presidential election in 1960 before winning in 1968 and 1972. Ronald Reagan lost a presidential campaign in 1976 before winning in 1980 and 1984. Joe Biden ran for president in 1988 and lost; he eventually won in 2020.
So the real question for Youngkin going forward may be how he handles the defeat. Will he be able to forge compromises and work with the Democrats in a way that might strengthen him as a possible "No Labels" or independent or post-Trump Republican candidate for 2028? If so, a Democratic legislature might be a blessing in disguise, especially compared with a Republican group of lawmakers that might have enabled legislation that suburban independent voters in the rest of America might have found just as distasteful as the ones in Virginia.
Youngkin is not the only Republican trying to navigate the narrow path between activist ideological advocacy groups and non-extreme, practical voters. His best hope—and the country's—is to devote the next two years of his governorship to demonstrating in Virginia that there's a sensible, pro-growth, problem-solving middle path. If he does that, he'll have a bright political future, and someday the Virginia legislative elections of 2023 will be but a footnote.