Over the last two decades, American politics has steadily polarized along urban and rural lines, with Democrats running up the score in well-educated metropolitan areas and Republicans making gains in the countryside.
For one night in Virginia, that trend did not continue.
In a departure from recent demographic trends, there weren’t really any notable demographic trends in Virginia at all.
Glenn Youngkin, the Republican candidate for governor, won by making broad gains over Democrats in every part of the state and, apparently, across every demographic group. He gained in the cities, the suburbs and rural areas. He gained in the east and west. He made inroads in precincts with both white and nonwhite voters.
It’s an unusually simple picture for such a noteworthy result. When a candidate outperforms expectations, it’s often accompanied by a big breakthrough among a particular demographic group; when a candidate disappoints, they still usually have a few bright spots. There were no bright spots for the Democratic candidate, Terry McAuliffe, but no breakthroughs for Mr. Youngkin, either.
The broad shift to the right could indicate widespread revulsion against Democrats, or it could simply be a sign that longstanding trends have finally run their course. Or perhaps it’s because Mr. Youngkin adopted a message that appealed to the kinds of voters who have gradually been fleeing the Republican Party.
Whatever the reason, it makes it harder to tell the usual story about why Democrats lost on Tuesday.