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Thomas Gallatin / October 25, 2021

Virginia Gubernatorial Race Has Dems Worried

Republican Glenn Youngkin has steadily gained ground on Democrat Terry McAuliffe.

The Virginia gubernatorial race is officially a toss-up, as Republican Glenn Youngkin has steadily closed the gap with Democrat Terry McAuliffe over the last couple of months.

Following the Gavin Newsom model, McAuliffe has sought to make this election all about Donald Trump, and he has continually painted Youngkin as a Trump stooge. Youngkin, on the other hand, has tried to make the race all about McAuliffe’s record as Virginia’s former governor, specifically hitting on the hot-button issue of education. McAuliffe has made it patently clear that he’s on the side of teachers unions and opposed to parental authority over their children’s education. Youngkin has effectively used this to hammer away at McAuliffe and it has proven effective — the most recent polling has the two candidates tied.

McAuliffe’s strategy may have seemed sound for a state that voted for Joe Biden over Donald Trump by 10 points. However, there is a two-fold problem with this strategy. The first is the fact that Trump is not currently the president, a reality further made plain by his lack of presence on social media. People aren’t reminded daily about his latest tweet. Second, and maybe even more damaging, is the fact that Biden is in a sustained polling downslide due entirely to his own abysmal leadership, even from many Democrats’ perspective. As much as people may have disliked Trump, they still enjoyed a robust economy in which the future appeared bright. The same can’t be said for Biden, as gas prices spike and inflation rises precipitously. McAuliffe’s strategy boils down to scaring northern Virginia voters into believing that a vote for Youngkin is a vote for Trump.

Meanwhile, Youngkin appears to have played a smarter game. He has homed in on the issues, attacking McAuliffe’s record and presenting himself as the candidate who sides with the people of Virginia against the special interests and Washington elites. His hammering of McAuliffe over parental rights with school choice seems to be paying off — he has increased his lead in the redder western part of the commonwealth and has made gains in northern and eastern Virginia.

What may be the most troubling news for McAuliffe is his slipping support among the Democrats’ largest demographic, women. As Monmouth University Polling Institute director Patrick Murray observed: “Suburban women, especially in Northern Virginia, have been crucial to the sizable victories Democrats have enjoyed in the commonwealth since 2017. However, their support is not registering at the same level this time around. This is due partly to a shift in key issues important to these voters and partly to dampened enthusiasm among the party faithful.” And the issue of schooling appears to be the primary reason for this slipping support, as education has risen to the second-most important issue for voters.

Down the final stretch, McAuliffe is pulling out all the stops. An array of Democrats from failed Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams to Kamala Harris to Joe Biden to Barack Obama will hit the campaign trail, desperately seeking to keep Virginia under Democrat control, especially in the run-up to 2022.

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