The Virginia governor's race is tightening in the homestretch. The latest polls show Republican political newcomer Glenn Youngkin has caught up with Terry McAuliffe, an establishment Democrat vying for a second term as Virginia's governor. The results of this election could be a preview of what's to come in the 2022 midterms.
Democrats made huge gains in Virginia when President Trump was in office. Now, they're trying to weather the plunge in President Biden's approval rating.
Whatever edge McAuliffe had at the start of the campaign appears to be gone. Youngkin is gaining ground, with one new poll showing a 46 to 46 percent split.
"The idea this is close should not shock anybody," said McAuliffe. "For 44 straight years, the party in the White House, the other party wins the governor's mansion."
McAuliffe is calling in big-name Democrats like former President Obama who joined him in Richmond on Saturday. "So go out there and fight and work because you're going to decide this election and the direction of Virginia and the direction of this nation for generations to come," Obama said.
The pressure is on. A Monmouth survey shows McAuliffe has dropped 5 points since last month. It could be partly due to this comment he made during a debate. "I don't think parents should be telling schools what they should teach," McAuliffe said.
McAuliffe also made headlines more recently when he cut short an interview with a local news reporter because he didn't like the questions.
The Youngkin camp is on offense with a new campaign slogan, "Parents Matter."
He's also demanding Loudoun County School Superintendent Scott Ziegler and the school board resign. This comes after a revelation that Ziegler sent an email to the board about an alleged assault by a transgender student against a female student in a high school bathroom. The incident reportedly happened one month before Ziegler publicly declared he had no record of such an assault.
"It's outrageous. The email simply confirms what we know, which is we had administrators at a school board who have been covering this up. I mean, they tried to hide it from parents, they've hidden it from the public, and they actually endangered students," said Youngkin.
With the governor's race a virtual tie, both sides are campaigning to faith voters. Vice President Kamala Harris is endorsing the Democrat in a video being played by hundreds of Black churches across Virginia. Conservatives are distributing voter guides in other churches.
Pundits say the McAuliffe camp is trying to drum up the enthusiasm that appears to be lacking for his second gubernatorial run. The same Monmouth poll shows Republican voters are more motivated to vote by a 7-point margin.
"It appears the Democratic base in Virginia is a bit fatigued: Fatigued by the last presidential election, fatigued by the pandemic, fatigued from the pandemic. Biden's polling numbers have ticked down," said Julia Manchester of The Hill.
The biggest swing in Youngkin's favor is from Independents breaking for him 48 to 39 percent. McAuliffe's advantage among women also shrank by 10 points since last month to a 4-point lead now.
While Joe Biden won Virginia by 10 points in 2020, McAuliffe reportedly told a group of supporters recently that President Biden's falling poll numbers are hurting his campaign. A few days later he walked back his comments, blaming gridlock in Washington instead.