A parlay, says Wikipedia, is a single bet that links together two or more individual wagers. The practice is familiar enough in horse racing and sports betting, but the life of politics is riddled with multi-stage bets as well. Winning the parlay depends on winning all the wagers involved. If any of the bets in the parlay fail, the entire parlay loses. Then, depending, a new bet can be laid down again.
The Republican Party has laid on a bold parlay in next week’s elections of the Virginia state legislature. Gov. Glenn Youngkin, elected in 2021, is seeking to roll back the state’s ban on abortion to fifteen weeks from its current second-trimester twenty-six weeks. This he explains as a “common sense” compromise in the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe. v. Wade. He is seeking to implement conservative policies in taxes and education as well.
All 140 seats in the General assembly are up for reelection. With Republicans striving to hold on to a narrow majority in the House of Delegates, Democrats hope to retain their majority in the 40-seat Senate.
The outcome may turn on the contest for a single seat in newly redrawn district in affluent northern Virginia, according to Scott Calvert, reporting last week in The Wall Street Journal. Democrat Russet Perry, 39, a former CIA officer and county prosecutor, and Juan Pablo Segura, a 35-year-old CPA turned entrepreneur, are competing for the office.
The second apparent bet is on Youngkin himself. The former private equity investor, having become independently wealthy as a Carlyle Group partner, frequently has been touted as a potential GOP presidential candidate.
If he leads his party to a majority in both house of its legislature next week, his backers, including Fox News media magnate Rupert Mudoch, have encouraged him to enter Republican primaries against Donald Trump next year.
We only need wait until next Tuesday to see if Youngkin collects on the first stage of the bet. What if he doesn’t?
Youngkin’s viability will turn on how he deals with the loss, both as a serving governor, and as potential presidential candidate. In these times, four years seems like forever. It remains possible that Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis or former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley will succeed in defeating Trump in the Republican caucuses and primaries that begin in January. Whoever wins will presumably face President Joe Biden next November.
If Biden is reelected, there are many reasons to expect a center-right Republican candidate to emerge in 2028, hopeful of attracting independent voters away from the Democratic Party’s traditional base, while retaining the votes, if not the affection, of the GOP’s populist base.
Abortion policy is likely to remain states’ prerogatives for many years to come. The Court’s 1973 finding of a Constitutionally protected right to terminate a pregnancy may turn out to have been more closely linked to advances in contraception technology than to the Due Process Clauses of the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments, insofar as members of the 1973 Court read the newspapers. If so, the 2022 Court’s decision may yet be reversed.
In the meantime, will some future presidential candidate find a cause to convince voters to give the abortion question a tempered leaving alone for a time? We can only hope.