Amid a deficit of enthusiasm among Democrats with just a week and a half to go in a dead end race with Republican gubernatorial candidate Glenn Youngkin, pressure is mounting for former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe to break the complacency perceived by his party.
“We need people to come out and vote. I can’t tell you how important this is,” McAuliffe told reporters Friday after his bus tour kicked off in Arlington, Virginia. ” Get Out the Vote “.
More than half a million people in the Commonwealth have already voted in an early vote ahead of the Nov. 2 election, statewide data shows. And McAuliffe’s game plan is to increase the participation of Democrats and independent voters.
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“This will be the largest voter turnout of a non-presidential year in the history of the Commonwealth of Virginia,” McAuliffe predicted.
That’s what Democrats in Virginia and across the country are hoping for in the closely watched race with national implications, as she is seen as a key indicator ahead of the 2022 midterm election.
Virginia and New Jersey are the only two states in the country to hold gubernatorial races the year following a presidential election. And that ensures that they both receive inordinate attention across the country. New Jersey being a decidedly blue state, Virginia – which remains competitive between the two major parties – takes the lion’s share of the national spotlight.
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There is a long-standing tendency for voters in the Commonwealth to defeat the candidate for governor of the party that controls the White House. McAuliffe broke that tradition in 2013 with his election as governor the year following President Obama’s re-election.
Republicans haven’t won statewide in Virginia for a dozen years, and President Biden won the state by 10 points last November. But the one-off battlefield remains a highly competitive state, seen as a key barometer heading into the 2022 midterm elections. The competitive contest for governor has National Democrats on edge as they defend their razor thin majorities. in the House of Representatives and the Senate in next year’s competitions. If Youngkin beats McAuliffe, there will be increased anxiety among Democrats about their midterm plight.
The race is dead even with every candidate at 46% among the likely voters, according to the latest poll – a Monmouth University poll of likely Virginia voters that was conducted Oct. 16-19. An average of all the most recent polls indicates that McAuliffe has a two-point advantage over Youngkin, which means it’s a race for the margin of error.
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McAuliffe held a single-digit advantage over Youngkin over the summer, but the showdown has tightened since Labor Day.
The Monmouth poll, like other recent polls, showed an edge in enthusiasm among GOP voters. With a margin of 79% to 72%, Republicans indicated they were more motivated to vote than Democrats.
To overcome the enthusiasm deficit and get Democrats to the polls, McAuliffe’s invited the party’s biggest stars to join him on the campaign trail.
First Lady Jill Biden campaigned with McAuliffe a week ago, and voting rights lawyer Stacey Abrams, the former Democratic leader of Georgia House who, in 2018, made history as the first black woman running for governor of a major political party, teamed up with him for two last weekend stops. She’s coming back this weekend.
Vice President Kamala Harris joined him on Thursday.
And the two biggest names in the Democratic Party will be heading to Virginia over the next few days.
Former President Obama will campaign with McAuliffe on Saturday. Even after nearly five years away from the White House, the former two-term president remains very popular and influential with voters in his own party.
And Biden will team up with McAuliffe on Tuesday. Even though Biden’s overall approval ratings in Virginia have deteriorated, he remains a major draw for Democratic voters.
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David Richards, chair of political science at Lynchburg University, noted that with a deadlocked race, the fact that the best substitutes potentially excite the grassroots could make the difference.
Richards said the McAuliffe and Virginia Democrats “need Hail Mary’s approval now, because if that doesn’t get the excitement, we’re looking at a very, very close race at this point, at this point. that if it rains on Election Day The day can be a deciding factor at this point. “
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