Nov 3, 2021 - Podcasts

An election-night warning for Democrats

The Republican Party saw some key wins in yesterday’s elections, particularly in Virginia, where candidate Glenn Youngkin was elected governor. Is this a warning to Democrats for 2022?

  • Plus, Minneapolis rejects a ballot measure to overhaul the city’s police.
  • And, global climate commitments so far at COP26.

Guests: Axios' Mike Allen, Torey Van Oot, and Ben Geman.

Credits: Axios Today is produced in partnership with Pushkin Industries. The team includes Niala Boodhoo, Sara Kehaulani Goo, Julia Redpath, Alexandra Botti, Nuria Marquez Martinez, Alex Sugiura, Sabeena Singhani, Lydia McMullen-Laird and David Toledo. Music is composed by Evan Viola. You can reach us at [email protected]. You can text questions, comments and story ideas to Niala as a text or voice memo to 202-918-4893.

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NIALA BOODHOO: Good morning! Welcome to Axios Today!

It’s Wednesday, November 3rd, 2021. I’m Niala Boodhoo.

Here’s what you need to know today: Minneapolis rejects a ballot measure to overhaul the city’s police. Plus: global climate commitments so cop26.

But first, today’s One Big Thing: last night’s Midterm warning for Democrats.

Even though all the results are not yet in so far, the Republican party has seen huge wins in yesterday's election, especially in Virginia, where candidate Glenn Youngkin was elected governor.

GLENN YOUNGKIN: Together. Together, we will change the trajectory of this Commonwealth [cheering].

NIALA: Here to catch us up on all the results from last night is Axios co-founder Mike Allen. Good morning, Mike.

MIKE ALLEN: Good morning, Niala.

NIALA: What's your big takeaway from last night's results?

MIKE: Niala, we had actual election night surprises. So in Virginia, all across the Commonwealth, a decisive win for Republican Glenn Youngkin and in New Jersey, a shock - Governor Phil Murphy in the fight of his life. That's still not called this morning. Very blue state and on the cusp of a red win. Democrats tell me they think they'll still pull it out. Tighter than expected. Let's pull back the camera, Niala. What are we seeing in all these results? We're seeing a message from voters that Democrats have gone too far left. That voters are saying that they're concerned about the direction of the country, by extension, direction of the White House. And if you're Joe Biden, who landed early, early this morning back from Europe, like, you have massive new problems on your hands.

NIALA: Including, how much harder does this make it for President Biden's infrastructure and spending deals to make it through Congress?

MIKE: I know they're going to wish that they already had these in their back pocket, because if you're in a tough district, a swing district, a suburban district, you're going to look at these results and say, “Whoa, I'm not so sure about this.” I could have told you at 5:25 PM, what was going to happen in Virginia. And here's why: the networks put out a fascinating exit poll result and before polls close, they never tell you anything about the results, but they will tell you about the demographics, who voted.

And listen to this poll question in Virginia: the exit polls asked how much say should parents have in their child’s curriculum? Look at who voted: more than 50% of people who voted in the Virginia governor's race said that parents should have a lot of control of their child's curriculum. And that told you where things were headed, that parents just thought Democrats had gone too far.

NIALA: We saw some other surprises last night at the mayoral level that were historic: the first Arab American mayor of Dearborn, Michigan, the first female and Asian American mayor in Boston and another Asian American first in Cincinnati. What does that say?

MIKE: These are wins that progressives can point to. So in Boston, Michelle Wu, 36, becoming the first woman, first person of color becoming mayor in 199 years. And the Boston Globe points out that this is a real triumph of new Boston over the establishment. So look what she pushed for: free public transportation, rent control, a green new deal for the city. So a very progressive push there. History made in a lot of places. And in Virginia, Republicans elected an African American female Lieutenant Governor, a former Marine, no less, who came to America from Jamaica.

NIALA: Just a few weeks ago, we were talking about the lessons Republicans were learning from losing Gavin Newsom’s recall election. What does all of this say about the coming year in politics?

MIKE: So first, the Virginia race specifically, Republicans now have a new formula for winning when Donald Trump is out there looming. Glenn Youngkin was very smart about how he handled Trump. He never said the T-word. He didn't attack him. He didn't insult him, but he didn't embrace him. And so he was able to run as a mainstream Republican at a time when the party is still controlled by Trump forces.

NIALA: You can read more about this in Mike's AM newsletter. Axios co-founder Mike Allen. Thanks Mike.

MIKE: Thanks for the coverage.

NIALA: In 15 seconds: the view from Minneapolis after voters rejected a police reform measure.

[ad break]

NIALA: Welcome back to Axios Today. I'm Niala Boodhoo. Seventeen months after the murder of George Floyd, Minneapolis voters rejected an amendment that would have overhauled the city's police force by replacing it with a Department of Public Safety. Axios’ Twin Cities Reporter Torey Van Oot was tracking the results last night. Hey Torey.

TOREY VAN OOT: Hey, good morning, Niala.

NIALA: Torey, was this measure about defunding the police?

TOREY: This measure would not have defunded the police, it would have replaced, as you mentioned, the police department with a new department of public safety and supporters actually said it would lead to, a more comprehensive, a stronger public safety, initiative here in Minneapolis. But, the politics of defund did play a role. You know, this was part of the conversation in the days following George Floyd's death with some city council members pledging to dismantle the police. And, you know, I think that that stuck with some voters.

NIALA: Do we know why it didn’t pass? Is it because of that?

TOREY: Well, we know that a lot of voters in Minneapolis and city officials as well, even those that oppose this measure say the Minneapolis police department has to change. The department has had a troubled past even before George Floyd was killed and there's a real push for reform. Like in many cities, we've had a spike in crime here in Minneapolis, since the pandemic over the past year. And that's something, particularly in some of the harder hit neighborhoods, by gun violence and other crimes, uh that might've been weighing on voters.

NIALA: There was one local race I wanted to ask you about - we saw Jason Chavez, a Democratic Socialist, win in the ward where George Floyd was murdered. Does this say anything about Floyd’s political legacy in Minneapolis?

TOREY: Yeah - that neighborhood is a fairly progressive area of Minneapolis. And I think Jason is kind of this new generation of young leaders here in Minneapolis. At the same time we saw a number of city council incumbents across the city who had supported this police measure, either lose their races last night or be locked in really close, close races and at risk of losing. So, it looks like the city council as a whole is going to be more moderate, but there were some bright spots for progressives here.

NIALA: That’s Axios’ Twin Cities Reporter, Torey Van Oot. Thank you, Torey.

TOREY: Thank you.

NIALA: COP26, the global climate change conference happening in Glasgow, has already featured some big country-level commitments and private sector financial pledges...but there are still a lot of unknowns about whether it will actually be a success.

Axios energy reporter Ben Geman is in Glasgow. I asked him to catch us up quick on the biggest takeaways from the conference so far...and what to watch for next.

BEN GEMAN: I think the most important initiative thus far is that over a hundred countries have now signed a pledge to cut methane emissions by 30% by 2030. Methane is a really powerful planet-warming gas and backers say the pledge now covers 70% of the global economy and about half of human caused methane emissions. So, you know, that's a really big deal, but only if there's actually follow-through on what's a voluntary and non-binding set of commitments.

And, you know, that's just one of a burst of new multilateral initiatives here in the early days of Cop26. On the private sector side, one of several new efforts has been that Jeff Bezos through his climate fund is putting a fresh $2 billion into landscape restoration and food system transformation efforts, adding to some of his prior commitments. You know, he's actually just one of several really famous people who's giving Cop26, something of a Davos vibe. Actor and climate activist Leonardo DiCaprio has been here too and attracting some big crowds and interest as he walks around.

Tuesday was also notable for President Joe Biden calling out China, the world's biggest carbon emitter for its lack of new climate pledges. Biden said at a press conference right before leaving that China quote, “basically didn't show up” unquote and you know, it's worth noting that Chinese president Xi Jinping didn't come to Glasgow at all.

I mean, at the end of the day, you know, real progress on climate change needs China, but I think Biden was trying to make the dynamic here into a geopolitical plus for the U.S. by saying that China has now lost influence globally. So what's ahead, you know, with world leaders now departing, the nitty gritty work of hammering out a final agreement here will intensify and move into much more specific and fraught discussions around finance and targets and more. So there's a lot left and stay tuned.

NIALA: Ben Geman is Axios’ energy reporter -- he’s at COP26 this week.

And before we go, one final - non political - win from last night:

ANNOUNCER: Braves win!! [cheering]

NIALA: Yes, that’s the Atlanta Braves winning the World Series last night on Fox. They beat the Houston Astros for their first championship title since 1995.

I’m Niala Boodhoo - thanks for listening - stay safe and we’ll see you back here tomorrow morning.

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