OPINION: This article contains commentary which reflects the author's opinion
Virginia Democrats are getting panicky over the governor’s race as polling shows their candidate, Terry McAuliffe, suddenly losing to GOP challenger Glenn Youngkin in an otherwise blue state in what has turned into the most competitive political race since President Donald Trump left the Oval Office.
While McAuliffe predictably led early in the contest, Youngkin has steadily chipped away at the Democrat’s lead, with a Fox News poll putting the Republican well ahead earlier this week.
“Public polling has been shifting in Republican newcomer Glenn Youngkin’s direction in recent weeks, while Democrat Terry McAuliffe, a former governor and close ally of President Joe Biden, has struggled to energize his base as Biden’s approval ratings sink,” the Daily Mail reported.
That said, Youngkin noted over the weekend that he would not be taking part in a tele-town hall event involving the former Republican president.
“I’m not going to be engaged in the tele-town hall,” Youngkin noted. “The teams are talking, I’m sure.”
Virginia has been blue for more than a decade; no Republican has won a statewide race there since 2009. So the fact that Youngkin is even polling well is a shocker to the Democratic Party.
Youngkin is polling at 53 percent among likely voters, to McAuliffe’s 45 percent, but as Fox News noted last week:
Among the larger pool of registered voters, it’s a one-point race: McAuliffe 47 percent vs. Youngkin 48 percent. Two weeks ago, McAuliffe led among registered voters by 11 points, 52-41 percent.
What changed? GOP enthusiasm. The race is largely focused on education and this has energized Republicans, as 79 percent of Youngkin supporters are “extremely” interested in the election compared to 69 percent of McAuliffe supporters.
Democratic pollster Chris Anderson is waving a red flag.
“With the race essentially tied among the full registered voter universe, McAuliffe could still pull this off,” says Anderson, who conducted the Fox News poll along with Republican Daron Shaw. “But it would take something big to ignite enthusiasm for McAuliffe’s candidacy and a massively effective get out the vote effort.”
“Education is a top issue, which is usually good news for the Democrats since they are typically seen as more capable in that domain,” Shaw said. “But Youngkin has turned the issue on its head so it’s about curriculum and parent involvement rather than spending. The result is the GOP is currently preferred on perhaps the critical issue for this election.”
The Daily Mail noted the top issue framing the race at this point:
On Saturday, Trump publicly backed Youngkin, and predicted the controversy surrounding the school boards in the state would boost Republican gubernatorial candidate Glenn Youngkin’s chances of winning Tuesday’s election.
Parents in the state have been fighting back against woke school boards where meetings have become a public battlefield. Hot button topics include banned books from school libraries parents had deemed inappropriate, the rights of transgender students, and the teaching of critical race theory.
In June, a father was arrested at a Loudoun County School Board meeting after he confronted board members about his 15-year-old daughter being raped in a gender-neutral bathroom by a boy, 15, wearing a skirt. The boy, who has not been named because he is a minor, has been charged and will be sentenced in November. He has also been charged with sexually assaulting another girl at a different school in the same Virginia school district in October.
“I’ve been watching the school board hearings more closely than I ever have, to be honest, and it’s so interesting,” Trump told Fox News host Jeanine Pirro on Saturday.
“The parents are incensed. They’re not terrorists. They’re people that are just so upset,” the former president continued. “I think he’s going to do very well.”
Trump also noted that McAuliffe made a huge unforced error earlier this month when he said during a debate with Youngkin that parents should have no say in their children’s education curriculum.
“McAuliffe made a tremendous mistake. It’s not a tremendous mistake from his standpoint. He believes it,” Trump said.