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Wake Up To Politics - November 2, 2021

Wake Up To Politics: What to watch on Election Day 2021
Wake Up To Politics - November 2, 2021

Good morning! It’s Tuesday, November 2, 2021. Election Day 2024 is 1,100 days away. Election Day 2022 is 372 days away.

And Election Day 2021 is today. It may be an off-year, but there are still some important races going on across the country. Here’s your guide for what to watch tonight...

What to watch on Election Night 2021

The party of the president sitting in the Oval Office usually suffers a loss in the first midterm elections of their tenure. But first, they usually lose in the Virginia gubernatorial election as well.

Virginia is one of two states that holds its governor’s race in the year between presidential and midterm elections, and that unique placement has positioned it as something of a barometer of the national political environment — offering both parties a chance to test-drive their messages and often auguring the bad news to come for a president in the following year’s midterms. In fact, since the 1970s, the incumbent president’s party has only won the Virginia gubernatorial race once.  

Incidentally, the lone candidate to break that trend was Terry McAuliffe in 2013 — and now he’s trying to do it again. (Virginia is the only state in the nation that prohibits governors from serving two terms consecutively, although former governors like McAuliffe are free to seek the office again after a four-year break.)

Terry McAuliffe is running against history in the Virginia gubernatorial race. Gabe Fleisher / Wake Up To Politics 

All eyes will be on Virginia tonight, as political observers watch closely to see whether McAuliffe triumphs again in the Democratic-leaning state or if he falls short against Republican businessman Glenn Youngkin.

Fitting with the trends of past elections, in the closing days of the campaign, the momentum has undoubtedly been on Youngkin’s side: the GOP nominee has boasted larger crowds and higher poll numbers, with the FiveThirtyEight polling average showing him pulling into the slimmest of leads, a 0.9 percentage point advantage over McAuliffe. Several surveys have also found Youngkin voters to be more enthusiastic about the race than McAuliffe backers.

However, McAuliffe benefits from a different set of trends: Democratic dominance in Virginia in recent years. Once the classic bellwether state, the Old Dominion has been steadily turning blue since Barack Obama became the first Democratic presidential nominee in decades to win it in 2008. No Republican has been elected to statewide office in Virginia since 2009; last year, Joe Biden won the state by 10 percentage points.

The Virginia race quadrennially receives outsized attention, but this year the contest has taken on an especially national flavor. McAuliffe has made Donald Trump central to his campaign, seeking to tie Youngkin to the former president and appeal to the suburban voters whose aversion to Trump has powered recent Democratic victories in the state but who have now caused Biden’s approval ratings to tank.

Youngkin, meanwhile, has tried to walk a delicate tightrope in distancing himself from Trump without criticizing the ex-president, who held a brief tele-rally for him on Monday. Youngkin has instead leaned into several cultural crusades embraced by Trump and other Republicans, especially a roiling debate in Loudon County and other Virginia school districts over how America’s racial history is taught in public schools.

The implications of the race will be national as well: with Biden’s approval ratings dropping as he scrambles to get his agenda off the ground, a Youngkin win — or even a slim McAuliffe victory — will invigorate Republicans and demoralize Democrats as both parties gear up for next year’s midterms.

Glenn Youngkin has emphasized a series of Republican culture battles in his campaign. Youngkin campaign

There are other races going on today too, though. Here’s a roundup of some other contests worth watching:

  • New Jersey is the other state holding a gubernatorial race. Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy is favored to win another term against Republican Jack Ciattarelli.
  • Ohio is holding two House special elections to fill vacancies. Neither seat is expected to change hands: Democrat Shontel Brown is likely to win in the 11th district, as is Republican Mike Carey in the 15th.
  • New York City, Boston, Atlanta, Detroit, New Orleans, and Miami are among the big cities holding mayoral races. After barely winning a chaotic primary race, centrist Democrat Eric Adams is expected to easily triumph in the Big Apple, while Boston is choosing between two history-making women of color.
  • Minneapolis is holding a hotly-contested referendum on whether to significantly overhaul the city’s police department. The ballot question is one of the first electoral tests of the “defund the police” movement, coming in the very city George Floyd was killed last year.

What else you should know

— “Biden announces rule to limit methane leaks, targeting oil and gas industry at COP26 climate summit” USA Today

– “Supreme Court seems willing to allow challenge of Texas’s restrictive abortion law” Washington Post

— “Senate confirms first out LGBTQ woman to serve on federal circuit court” CNN

— “70% of US adults are fully vaccinated, 80% partially” The Hill

— “FEC lets foreigners finance U.S. ballot fights” Axios

President Biden has unveiled new methane regulations while at the Glasgow climate summit. White House

Policy Roundup: Education

By Wake Up To Politics education contributor Kirsten Shaw Mettler.

The iteration iteration of the “Build Back Better” package includes $40 billion for higher education. After free two-year community college was cut from the spending package, affordability advocates worried that education spending would continue to face large losses in the negotiation process. However, President Biden announced on Thursday that some higher education spending would still be in the legislation, including increased funding for Pell Grants and Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs).

Three weeks after announcing a temporary expansion of Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF), the Education Department has still not issued guidance to necessary contractors. PSLF is a program that supports public servants, like teachers, in receiving debt forgiveness on their student loans. The Biden administration had announced that the eligibility pool for such forgiveness would be expanded through October 31, 2022.

But the federal student loan servicers, the “middlemen” who actually collect student debt payments, say that they have yet to receive specific guidelines from the government on how to actually enforce and interpret these new regulations. Contractors claim that without these details, the program could be slowed down and borrowers seeking relief could be left behind.

The Biden spending package includes increased fundings for HBCUs, such as Howard University. Derek Morton

More education policy headlines, via Kirsten:

  • The FDA approved the Pfizer-BioNTech for young children. Now, schools must decide how to roll out the vaccine and what to do if families refuse shots.

School board recalls are on the rise in light of rising polarization and the COVID-19 pandemic.

Debates over race education rage on, as exemplified by recent battles over Toni Morrison’s “Beloved” in a Virginia school’s curriculum.


All times Eastern.
President Joe Biden is in Glasgow, Scotland, for the United Nations climate change conference (COP26). Earlier this morning, he delivered remarks on the U.S. plan to preserve global forests at a summit event on “Action on Forests and Land Use” and participated in a meeting on the Build Back Better World (B3W) initiative.

At 9 a.m., he will deliver brief remarks at an event highlighting the progress of the Global Methane Pledge. At 10:30 a.m., he will deliver remarks at a summit event on “Accelerating Clean Technology Innovation and Deployment.” At 3:30 p.m., he will hold a press conference. He is then scheduled to depart Edinburgh at 5:55 p.m. and arrive back at the White House at 1:25 a.m. tomorrow morning.

CONGRESS The Senate will convene at 10 a.m. The chamber will continue consideration of several Biden sub-Cabinet nominees. At around 11 a.m., the chamber will hold a series of cloture votes advancing the nominations of Jonathan Davidson to be Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for Legislative Affairs, Benjamin Harris to be Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for Economic Policy, and Isobel Coleman to be Deputy Administrator of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) for Policy and Programming.

Following the Coleman cloture vote, the Senate will recess until 2:15 p.m. for weekly caucus meetings. At around 2:20 p.m., the chamber will hold cloture votes to advance the nominations of Jeffrey Prieto to be General Counsel of the Environmental Protection Agency and Rajesh Nayak to be Assistant Secretary of Labor for Policy. Finally, at around 5:15 p.m., the Senate will hold a confirmation vote on Davidson.

The House will convene at 10 a.m. The chamber is scheduled to vote on six pieces of legislation under “suspension of the rules”:

  1. H.R. 3469, the Veteran Entrepreneurship Training Act of 2021
  2. H.R. 4256, the Investing in Main Street Act of 2021
  3. H.R. 3462, the SBA Cyber Awareness Act
  4. H.R. 4481, the Small Business 7(a) Loan Agent Transparency Act
  5. H.R. 4531, the 7(a) Loan Agent Oversight Act
  6. H.R. 4515, the Small Business Development Center Cyber Training Act of 2021

The chamber may also hold suspension votes on six pieces postponed from Monday:

  1. H.R. 1975, the Pala Band of Mission Indians Land Transfer Act of 2021
  2. H.R. 5221, the Urban Indian Health Confer Act
  3. H.R. 3616, the Bear River National Heritage Area Study Act
  4. S. 108, to authorize the Seminole Tribe of Florida to lease or transfer certain land
  5. H.R. 4881, the Old Pascua Community Land Acquisition Act
  6. H.R. 2088, the Eastern Band of Cherokee Historic Lands Reacquisition Act


The Supreme Court will hear two cases today. At 10 a.m., the justices will hear oral arguments in Houston Community College System v. Wilson, a colorful First Amendment case involving a college board of trustees. In the view of David Wilson, a former board member, his colleagues were “plagued by accusations of corruption,” and he frequently spoke out against their decisions through press campaigns and lawsuits. The question today is whether the board violated Wilson’s First Amendment right to free speech by finally censuring him in 2018.

At 11 a.m., the justices will hear oral arguments in Badgerow v. Walters, which considers whether federal courts can confirm or vacate arbitration awards when the underlying dispute has a tie to federal law, the Constitution, or a U.S. treaty. — Anna Salvatore, WUTP legal contributor


The Virginia and New Jersey gubernatorial elections are today. Polls will be open from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. in Virginia and from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. in New Jersey.


The CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) will meet from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. to consider whether to endorse recommending Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine for children aged 5 to 11.

The ACIP vote, which will take place at 4:15 p.m., is the final step before the CDC formally recommends the vaccine and makes it available to the age group.