Opinion | Abigail Spanberger shows again how to win as a centrist Democrat

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If Democrats want a model of how to win in tough districts, the best they can do is follow Rep. Abigail Spanberger’s lead.

The Virginia Democrat’s success on Tuesday was one of the first indications that the red wave that so many experts predicted for the midterm elections would be more like a shock wave. She won re-election as a moderate for two terms in a redistricted district during the 2020 redistricting process.

His victory, along with that of Rep. Jennifer Wexton in Virginia’s 10th congressional district, benefited from the massive turnout of Democrats in early voting. Ironically, as the polls and pundits spoke of a GOP move in the final week of the campaign, Spanberger felt the momentum shift in his direction. She crisscrossed the district, besting her opponent and reminding voters of her bipartisan record.

Spanberger brought in a MAGA extremist, Yesli Vega, as his opponent. Vega made headlines this summer when she bizarrely claimed that rape victims couldn’t get pregnant. Additionally, as The Post reported, Vega “has previously sympathized with the January 6 protesters as being unjustly persecuted, calling them ‘a group of people exercising their First Amendment right.’ ”

Vega’s electoral denial and Spanberger’s strength on national security issues, especially his support for Ukraine, earned him the endorsement of renegade GOP Rep. Liz Cheney (Wyoming). The Spanberger campaign believed that Cheney’s nod would resonate with undecideds.

Still, Spanberger’s team was unnerved by reports of patchy Democratic turnout in the 7th congressional district, so it focused on Prince William County, a Democratic stronghold. That could have been key to her victory: A massive showing in the county on Tuesday put her on top.

During his victory remarks Tuesday night, Spanberger spoke of his “deep and abiding love of country” and a “deep sense of responsibility.” The former CIA agent reiterated that the country was founded on “a dream” that it does not need to be tied to the past or be ruled by kings and queens. Citing Benjamin Franklin’s warning that the constitutional convention delivered a republic “if you can keep it,” he declared, “We must all work hard to keep it.”

As a moderate, Spanberger has managed to balance allegiance to Democratic causes, such as investing in green energy and preserving abortion rights, with an independent, reformist streak that sometimes puts her at odds with the party’s leadership. (Speaker Nancy Pelosi, for example, has not allowed a full vote on the Spanberger bill that would bar House members and their spouses from holding individual shares.)

With this victory, Spanberger reaffirms his status as a rising star at the party. Her formula — bipartisan problem-solving, strong national security credentials, anti-corruption crusade and support for women’s reproductive rights — has proven successful. But she also had another advantage: a Democratic record of legislative success, including the infrastructure bill, the Chip and Science Act, an expansion of veterans’ health care and measures to lower prescription drug prices.

With three competitive House elections now under his belt, Spanberger has a good chance to rise through the House leadership and move on to higher office one day. In a political environment where the “moderate middle” seems to be disappearing, she shows that running to the center can pay off.

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