In Virginia, Two Words Democrats Hate: 'Dead Heat'

New poll shows tight race for governor in contest with national implications
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 26, 2021 12:13 PM CDT
In Virginia, Two Words Democrats Hate: 'Dead Heat'
In this Oct. 11 photo, Virginia Republican gubernatorial candidate Glenn Youngkin talks to supporters at a sports bar in Chesapeake, Va.   (AP Photo/Steve Helber, File)

Democrats have won the last two races for governor in once-red Virginia, but a three-peat won't be easy. A new poll from USA Today/Suffolk University shows Democrat Terry McAuliffe and Republican Glenn Youngkin tied at about 45%. "Dead heat," is how Suffolk's David Paleologos puts it. "It's down to turnout." And that would help explain why President Biden will be in the state Tuesday night at a rally for McAuliffe in Arlington, notes Politico. At this point, the race is inextricably tied to Biden's own fortunes, and "Democrats know they won't be able to spin a loss," write Christopher Cadelago and Zach Montellaro.

One problem for Democrats is that the Nov. 2 election enters its final phase as Biden's approval ratings are sinking. They're now at 41%, while his disapproval ratings have risen to 52%. "Even if McAuliffe wins a tight race, the result could spell warning signs for Democrats in Washington, given Biden's 10-point victory there just last year and the fact that the party in power often loses seats in the subsequent midterms," writes Dan Merica at CNN. A loss to Youngkin could give a big lift not only to Republicans but to the political fortunes of former President Trump, who has endorsed him.

Here's how an official at the Democratic National Committee frames it in terms of Democrats: "If they want to make sure that Donald Trump is front and center running for president again, then don't show up to vote," says Chris Korge, per Politico. "This could be the ballgame here." Youngkin isn't trumpeting the support of Trump but is instead positioning himself as a somewhat more moderate candidate. "I think that he is probably more acceptable to some Virginia voters than maybe Donald Trump was or maybe some other Republicans have been," Kyle Kondik of the University of Virginia's Crystal Ball political newsletter tells USA Today.

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The issue came up in a debate when Youngkin mocked McAuliffe for repeatedly bringing up Trump's name. "You are running against Glenn Youngkin," he said, per Politico. Other nuggets from the new poll:

  • Youngkin leads among white voters, 56% to 38%.
  • McAuliffe leads among women, 59% to 33%.
  • Youngkin leads among men, 58% to 32%.
(Read more Virginia stories.)

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