President Biden and Democrats in general will be watching the Virginia election returns closely Tuesday to see if Republican Glenn Youngkin can pull off a shock win over Democrat Terry McAuliffe.

Amid tanking poll numbers for Biden and worries among Democrats that they won’t be able to hang onto their narrow congressional majorities in 2022, a McAuliffe loss could send the party’s political apparatus into panic mode.

For some, the panic already has started.

“The Virginia gubernatorial election is way too close for comfort, but it hasn’t yet sparked the kind of mass Democratic panic and flurry of organizing that we saw in the California recall election last month,” the “What a Day” email newsletter by the progressive Crooked Media said last month. “Consider this a friendly invitation to commence your productive freakout.”

One of the things Democrats are concerned may drive voters to Youngkin is their failure to pass a bipartisan infrastructure bill. Progressives in Congress stymied efforts by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Biden both in September and October to pass the bill. They were demanding more work on Democrats’ massive reconciliation spending bill first.

Congressional Democrats are back this week trying to come to a deal both bills. But if McAuliffe loses, some have speculated it would make it less likely moderates will vote for reconciliation — a tough vote that would tie them to an unpopular president.

For Republicans, meanwhile, a Youngkin win could provide a blueprint for how they can take back the House and Senate in 2022.

The GOP nominee focused on schools and social issues in an effort to get parents behind his campaign and make inroads with crucial suburban voters. Youngkin also walked a tightrope when it comes to former President Donald Trump: Discreetly distancing himself from that brand of politics while trying to avoid directly rebuking the former president or his false election conspiracy theories.

Trump’s continued presence as the leader of the GOP puts Republicans in moderate districts in a tough spot. But if that strategy can work for Youngkin in Virginia, it could work in a lot of other places too.

A defeat for Democrats in Virginia could also spur more retirements among Democrat congressional incumbents, cause vulnerable Democrats to potentially try to distance themselves from Biden and force the party to reassess whether it wants to focus so much on Trump going forward.

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