Virginia governor’s race enters new phase as early voting begins

NEWPORT NEWS, Virginia — Virginia’s gubernatorial race picked up speed this week with the start of early voting and the first general election debate ahead of what is expected to be one of the most watched off-year elections .

Democratic candidate and former governor Terry McAuliffe (D) came face to face with his Republican opponent and former businessman Glenn Youngkin Thursday in the town of Grundy, southwest Virginia, where the two have traded beards on a number of issues, including restrictions on coronaviruses, abortion and the economy.

Early voting kicked off in the Commonwealth on Friday, where participation is sure to play a big role in the outcome of the race.

The off-year election is seen by many as an indicator ahead of next year’s midterm elections, which are likely to be a tough climb for Democrats seeking to retain control of the House and Senate during of the first midterm election of President BidenJoe BidenSunday Shows Sneak Peek: Coronavirus Dominates As Country Battles Delta Variant Has President Biden instituted a vaccine mandate for only half of the country’s teachers? Democrats look at vaccine mandates ahead of midterm MOREthe administration of.

But Youngkin and his Republican allies face an uphill battle in the Commonwealth, which increasingly tends to blue. Cook’s non-partisan political report calls the race a “lean Democrat.”

The 2021 election comes two years after the Virginia Democrats took full control of the State House, giving the party control of the two state legislatures and the governor. Party candidates are keenly aware of the potential consequences of a lack of enthusiasm from the state’s strong Democratic base in an off-year election, with the governor’s mansion and the House of Delegates up for grabs.

“Everything is on the line in November,” the lieutenant governor and Del said on Friday. Hala Ayala (D) during an early poll in Norfolk. “The progress we have made within the Democratic majority has moved this Commonwealth light years away. “

Youngkin will have to poach support from Virginia’s conservative and pro-Trump base, while appealing to the state’s moderate voters in the suburbs.

“Republicans are united as I have rarely seen them,” said Youngkin’s ally and Virginia State Senator Stephen Newman (R).

“He doesn’t need to come close to Bob McDonnell’s numbers,” Newman added, referring to Virginia’s last Republican governor. “If Glenn can just connect with the suburbs of Northern Virginia in a reasonable way, then look to the Henricos and Chesterfields and the counties around Richmond and pull out a good number where I think his excitement is on the rise… I thinks the rest of the state is going to push Glenn Youngkin to the brink.

But McAuliffe and his Democratic allies used the strategy of tying Youngkin to Trump in the hope that voters who rejected Trump in 2016 and 2020 will do the same with Youngkin in November.

Youngkin’s supporters say McAuliffe’s attacks have no legs to stand on during the Biden administration.

“We transferred to the Biden world,” Newman said. “Are you saying I’m going to be like Biden?” Or are you going to say I’m going to be like Northam? I do not think so. Instead, I think he has to kind of do a Hail Mary trying to tie Glenn to the former president.

Most opinion polls show McAuliffe leading Youngkin. An 8News / Emerson College survey released Thursday showed the former governor had 49% support, while Youngkin trailed with 45% support.

However, a recent internal Youngkin campaign poll showed him tied with McAuliffe in a one-on-one clash and then two points ahead of McAuliffe when third-party candidate Princess Blanding was included. .

Asked about the polls earlier this week, McAuliffe suggested he wasn’t taking anything for granted.

“I’m running like I always do – like I’m 20 points behind,” McAuliffe said on a press call. “It will always be a close race.

Both candidates reported record-breaking fundraisers in July and August on Thursday, illustrating just how expensive the race has become.

Youngkin raised $ 15.7 million during the period, while McAuliffe raised $ 11.5 million. By comparison, Gov. Ralph Northam (D) raised $ 7.2 million in the same period four years ago.

But McAuliffe leads the cash advantage with $ 12.6 million compared to Youngkin’s $ 6 million in the bank.

McAuliffe did not lend himself any personal loans during the period, while Youngkin lent himself $ 4.5 million. Youngkin’s allies are quick to point out that McAuliffe was involved in an out-of-state fundraiser. Former president Bill clintonWilliam (Bill) Jefferson Clinton Business Coalition Aims to Provide Jobs for Afghan Refugees Biden Appoints Former State Department Official as Chief Export-Import Bank Obamas, Bushes and Clinton Join New effort to help Afghan refugees MORE raised money for McAuliffe at an event in Skaneateles, NY earlier this month.

Clinton isn’t the only big political name to have recently gotten involved in the race. Vice President Harris raised money for McAuliffe in Virginia on Tuesday, while the former attorney general Guillaume BarrBill BarrClinton’s Lawyer Indictment Reveals “Bag of Tricks” Lawyer Charged with Lying to FBI in Durham Milley Investigation Has Decided to Limit Military Strike Capabilities of Trump after Jan.6, according to Woodward’s book: MORE report is expected to appear at a fundraiser for Youngkin later this month.

While access to most fundraisers was restricted to the public, voters were able to see the candidates in a debate-style forum for the first time on Thursday after a number of passionate back-and-forth between the two. campaigns on debates previously scheduled earlier. This year.

Thursday’s forum was not without aftershocks from the candidates. McAuliffe took aim at Youngkin’s coronavirus vaccine PSA, saying “people don’t even know who you are on TV,” while Youngkin said McAuliffe “has racked up so many Pinocchios he can barely get in. in the building”.

Some of the campaign’s main issues, including coronavirus vaccines, abortion, election integrity and the economy, took center stage.

Youngkin notably broke with Trump when asked if he thought Democrats would cheat in the next election. The Republican, who is pro-life, also said he would not sign an abortion bill like the one in Texas, calling the legislation “unworkable.” However, Youngkin criticized McAuliffe’s abortion rights rhetoric, saying his Democratic opponent wants to be “the abortion governor.”

McAuliffe took aim at Youngkin’s stance on vaccination warrants, calling his stance “life threatening.” Youngkin said he supported taking the vaccine but said the choice should be left to the individual.

Republicans and Democrats have stressed the importance of voting early in the race, citing the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and the potential role it could play.

“There’s something clicking inside Republicans that says they have to vote on Election Day probably because that’s the traditional way to do it,” Newman said. “I have greatly encouraged Republicans not to view early voting as anything other than an opportunity to vote and reserve your vote early.”

Virginia Democratic Party President Susan Swecker warned turnout would likely be different from last year’s presidential election, but dismissed concerns about enthusiasm.

“You’re not going to see the long lines this time around on day one,” Swecker said, referring to the in-person vote. “But it would be wrong to say that the enthusiasm is waning if you don’t see the long lines.”