Despite the constant flow of hit pieces and the tens of millions spent, the Virginia gubernatorial race appears to still be just as tight as it was at the beginning of the summer.
The Democratic nominee Terry McAuliffe has been running an impressive messaging campaign in an attempt to try and tie his Republican opponent Glenn Youngkin to former President Donald Trump and other far-right policies. Additionally, the barrage of news articles highlighting Youngkin’s time at Carlyle and their business dealings have not exactly helped the Republican candidate, either.
Youngkin has tried to present himself as a political newcomer that can end Democratic control of Richmond, but Virginians know virtually nothing else about him. McAuliffe, on the other hand, has lived a public life for decades. This makes it hard to try and dig up any dirt that hasn’t already been used against him.
Instead, Republicans have to attack him for his policy views — which is something that isn’t necessarily easy to do in a state that voted for Biden by 10 points last year.
But even with the negative press, a poll last week shows that McAuliffe has not really separated from Youngkin at all. McAuliffe’s lead has only grown by one point since the beginning of the summer when it was first reported that he held a 4-point lead over Youngkin. At the same time, however, Youngkin has drastically outspent McAuliffe and has not gained any ground.
Debating over Debates
The candidates have continued to try and use debate participation as a political weapon against each other. McAuliffe accepted five invitations and Youngkin accepted three, but they only selected two of the same invites.. They have both tried to use the events that they accepted, but the other didn’t, as an attack.
- McAuliffe’s campaign says he is declining the Liberty/Hampton debate
- AARP cancels gubernatorial debate after Youngkin doesn’t accept invite
- The Virginia Bar Association debate has been canceled after Glenn Youngkin declines invite
Either way, it is Virginia voters who will end up losing with only two debates taking place limiting the exposure each candidate has to the general public.
It is unclear if national politics will have an impact on this race. President Biden has already campaigned for McAuliffe once, but the president is currently dealing with criticism from a botched retreat out of Afghanistan. The White House will now likely be heavily scrutinized over the coming weeks which could hurt Biden’s approval rating.
Additionally, the Delta Variant of the COVID-19 virus is surging across the country which could slow the economy’s recovery.
President Biden’s handling of both the virus and Afghanistan’s aftermath will largely determine general sentiment towards the Democratic party.
Can Virginia elect a Republican again?
12 years have passed since Republicans last won a statewide race here. Virginia was often considered a purple state that elected statewide officials who were opposite of the White House party, but McAuliffe broke that sentiment when he narrowly defeated Ken Cuccinelli for governor in 2013. He now has to break that trend again this year.
There is less than one month until early voting begins. McAuliffe remains the frontrunner, but Youngkin is by no means out of this race.
Plenty can happen between now and Nov. 2 to drastically alter this race. We shall see.
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