Final day of campaigning in Virginia’s gubernatorial race

Southeast

RICHMOND, Va. (NewsNation Now) — Democrat Terry McAuliffe and Republican Glenn Youngkin frenzied pace of campaigning continued Monday in the bitter contest for Virginia governor that will be scrutinized as a bellwether ahead of next year’s midterm elections.

McAuliffe, who served as governor from 2014 to 2018, and Democrats are scrambling to stave off disaster after public polling has shifted in Youngkin’s direction in recent weeks. Republicans are optimistic about their chances in the commonwealth, where they haven’t won a statewide race since 2009.

McAuliffe led Youngkin by five points in public opinion polls in mid-August, but in the final days the two candidates were locked in a near dead heat, according to polling averages calculated by Real Clear Politics. Over that same period, Biden’s approval rating dropped to just over 40% from about 50%.

“The momentum certainly seems to be behind the Youngkin campaign,” Bill Bolling, Virginia’s former lieutenant governor said on “Morning in America.” “But Democrats have historically had a very good voter turnout machine in Virginia. So it is a cliche, but it’s true. It really does come down to who shows up at the polls, who has cast early votes and who has cast no-excuse absentee votes.”

NewsNation’s Adrienne Bankert spoke with Bolling on “Morning in America”. You can watch the full interview below.

McAuliffe, who preceded Democrat Ralph Northam as governor in the only state that doesn’t allow its executive to serve consecutive terms, has brought out a series of high-profile surrogates including President Joe Biden, former President Barack Obama and celebrity musicians Pharrell Williams and Dave Matthews in the final stretch.

Youngkin, meanwhile, has eschewed virtually all public campaign visits from well-known party allies who would typically flock to a hot race.

That includes former President Donald Trump, who is holding a telerally for Youngkin on Monday. Youngkin has said he will not be participating. Youngkin more fully embraced Trump during the Republican nominating contest, but since becoming the nominee, he has walked a fine line as he tries to court moderate voters in a state that Trump lost by 10 percentage points to Biden in 2020.

McAuliffe has tried to closely tie Youngkin to Trump, running television ads that juxtaposed his calls for better election security with images of Trump and the Capitol riot.

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“He wants to bring Donald Trump politics to Virginia,” McAuliffe said while debating Youngkin on Sept. 28.

Schools have been a major focus for Youngkin, who opposes COVID-19 safety rules requiring that face masks be worn in Virginia’s classrooms as well as anti-racism education.

“It forces our children to view everything through a lens of race,” Youngkin said at a campaign stop in Chesterfield, Virginia, on Oct. 8.

Over 1.1 million out of the state’s approximately 5.9 million registered voters cast a ballot early this year, according to state data published by the nonpartisan Virginia Public Access Project. That’s down sharply from the 2.8 million early votes in last year’s presidential election but marks a dramatic increase compared with the mere 195,634 early votes during the last gubernatorial cycle, before the voting reforms were instituted.

The hectic pace of campaigning was set to continue Monday. Both candidates will be crisscrossing the state, each with stops in Roanoke, Virginia Beach, the Richmond area and northern Virginia.

Saturday marked the final day for early voting in Virginia, which has been dramatically expanded during the past two years of unified Democratic control of state government. Legislation passed in 2020 eliminated the need to provide one of a certain number of limited excuses in order to vote absentee. Now any qualified voter can cast a ballot starting 45 days before the election.

Polls will be open Tuesday from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m.

This story is developing. Refresh for updates.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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