Youngkin ran a very shrewd campaign. He knew exactly what buttons to push. He made opposition to CRT, mask/vaccine mandates, and being pro-“parents rights” and “tough on crime” the centerpiece of his campaign. Meanwhile, the Democrats got caught with their pants down. But Youngkin is just a Mitt Romney-like corporate Republican, not a religious right, MAGA, NRA, MTG, Boebert, etc type.
The key issue is the “exurbs” which are the areas in between the suburbs and rural areas, which tend to be populated by relatively affluent people, who are moderately conservative, particularly on economics, less liberal than their professional class counterparts in the suburbs, but not nearly as conservative as the Trump-lovers in Hickville. This election basically amounted to the liberal suburbs vs the moderately conservative exurbs. Youngkin is was an ideal candidate for the exurbs which is why he won.
Robby Soave explains why critical race theory became central to Glenn Youngkin’s victory in Virginia.