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Virginia governor’s race emerges as an indicator

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When Virginia voters choose the next Commonwealth Governor on November 2, they will choose between a Trump-aligned Republican who has criticized President Joe Bidens’ $ 1.9 trillion US bailout and a longtime moderate Democrat who supports a greater safety net and higher salary for teachers.

For Democrats, any early indication of voter sentiment is a crucial indicator, ahead of the midterm elections in 2022.

Democrats have a narrow majority of 220-212 in the House of Representatives. Election experts say Republicans are preferred to take over the House on redistribution efforts alone. Republicans only need to win a seat next year to take back the Senate. The run in Virginia will be seen as an indication of voters’ reaction to Biden.

Terry McAuliffe, former governor of Virginia and former chairman of the Democratic National Committee, is the de facto race holder. (Virginia does not allow a governor to serve consecutive terms, so current Democratic Governor Ralph Northam is limited to term.) If elected, McAuliffe will be the second governor to serve two terms since Virginia began to serve. elect governors. Segregationist Mills Godwin was the first popularly elected governor to serve two terms, first in 1966 as a Democrat and then in 1974 as a Republican.

Glenn Youngkin is a former CEO of the Carlyle Group, a private equity firm, and a political newcomer. After securing the Republican nomination, he called himself a “political outsider” who will bring “real change to Richmond”.

While Virginia has become an increasingly blue state, Democrats control the governor’s office, as well as the state House and Senate, the Commonwealth is not a Democratic stronghold. The Old Dominion supported the Republican presidential candidates from 1968 to 2004 until it supported President Barack Obama in 2008. From 1970 to 2018, Virginia went back and forth between Republican and Democratic governors. .

McAuliffe and Youngkin will hold their first general election debate on Thursday, moderated by Susan Page, USA TODAY’s Washington bureau chief. Early voting in Virginia begins Friday.

The story continues

Recent polls on the Virginia gubernatorial race show McAuliffe has an average 5.2% lead over Youngkin, according to RealClearPolitics.

However, a mid-August poll from Virginia Commonwealth University showed the candidates were virtually tied. The survey showed that 40% of voters supported McAuliffe compared to 37% of voters in favor of Youngkin. The margin of error was 5.23%.

I think it’s a close race. And I think it’s going to stay close until people hear from the candidates on where they stand on the issues, ”former Gov. Doug Wilder told USA TODAY. “We haven’t heard that at all yet.

Where are McAuliffe and Youngkin

Wilder, a Democrat who became the first African-American governor in U.S. history in 1990, stressed that both candidates need to make it clear to voters who they are and what their positions are on the issues.

In this election, you have the pandemic, you have the effects of the pandemic, you have funds that have not been allocated in relation to the evictions, ”he said. “Then you also have the problem of the disparity in education.

McAuliffe called for increases in the minimum wage and pay for teachers. He also supported the right to abortion and pushed campaign ads linking Youngkin to Trump.

When running for the GOP nomination, Youngkin emphasized his pro-gun and pro-life positions. But the National Rifle Association didn’t back him in July, when it backed his running mate, Winsome Sears, and GOP attorney general candidate Del. Jason Miyares.

Youngkin also criticized parts of the US $ 1.9 trillion bailout. In an interview in May with the conservative The Daily Caller website, Youngkin said, “In fact, we have unnecessary stimulus in our economy, both from a monetary standpoint and because we have a lot. fiscal stimulus right now. “

While McAuliffe has supported the COVID-19 vaccine and mask warrants, Youngkin opposes the warrants, arguing they infringe individual rights and parental freedoms. But Youngkin encouraged Virginians to get vaccinated. A Monmouth University poll released Wednesday showed 67% of Virginia voters and 64% of parents support a mask mandate in schools.

McAuliffe also backed Biden’s COVID-19 announcement on Thursday ordering employers of 100 or more workers to ensure their workforce is fully vaccinated or faces weekly COVID tests. Youngkin said he disagreed with the government “imposing” a mandate in a town hall on the same day.

Larry Sabato, founder and director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia, told USA TODAY that explaining issues to voters is essential, especially for Youngkin.

Youngkin has unlimited money to spend, there’s no doubt about it. And it projects an attractive image, ”Sabato said. But before a campaign is over, you need to get to the heart of your positions and the issues that matter to people. And this is where Youngkin has a big problem. That and Trump.

The former president backed Youngkin and issued statements praising Youngkin and attacking McAuliffe.

Trump has enthusiastically approved (Youngkin) three times, which is at least twice too many, Sabato said.

Sabato has declared Virginia to be an anti-Trump state, highlighting Trump’s double-digit loss in the 2020 presidential election.

Trump lost Virginia to Biden by about 10 percentage points in 2020. Former Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton won Virginia by 5 percentage points in 2016.

Will abortion be a game-changer?

The recent Supreme Court decision to refuse to block a controversial Texas law banning abortion after six weeks of pregnancy has breathed new fervor into the campaign.

Sabato said abortion could be of huge benefit to McAuliffe.

This is something that is really going to matter in the campaign because in 1989, when Virginia was a very different, much more conservative state, ”said Sabato,“… the abortion issue literally elected Doug Wilder.

A study conducted by the Eagleton Institute of Politics at Rutgers University in 1990 showed that abortion had a direct impact on race due to Wilder’s assertive support for an individual’s right to have an abortion.

If abortion had had this kind of effect in 1989, imagine the effect it could have if McAuliffe used it well in 2021, “Sabato said.

Wilder, however, is wary of a repeat of his 1989 campaign.

Abortion is something that will be what I would call a marginal problem. I don’t think it came to the fore like it did when I ran for governor, he said. And the reason I’m saying this, look at where the nation was over 30 years ago on the issue of abortion. It was very questionable. There were a number of people on both sides of the aisle who had different views about him.

McAuliffe seized the abortion ban, saying Youngkin wanted to enforce law from Texas to Virginia. McAuliffe cut two commercials against Youngkin’s stance on abortion. He also issued press releases, organized press appeals and denounced Youngkinin’s social media posts for attempting to ban abortion and “define Planned Parenthood.”

In July, before the Texas Supreme Court ruling, Youngkin was secretly taped by Lauren Windsor, creator of YouTube show The Undercurrent and liberal activist, claiming he could not comment on his views on abortion until after. elections, for fear of pushing back independent voters. .

Windsor shared the footage with MSNBC and the American Independent, a liberal news organization. A spokesperson for Youngkin defended the candidate in a statement to the Washington Post.

Glenn Youngkin tells everyone he’s meeting the same thing: best place in America to live, work and raise a family, Matt Wolking said.

This deceptively recorded audio shows that Glenn Youngkin is saying the same thing no matter who he is talking to, unlike [Democrat] Terry McAuliffe knowingly making false claims and deciding what to say based on the survey submitted to him. “

Following the Texas law, Youngkin initially avoided commenting on the matter until his campaign clarified his anti-abortion views.

Glenn Youngkin made it clear from the start of the campaign that he was pro-life. He believes in exceptions for rape, incest and when the mother’s life is in danger, ”Youngkin spokesman Macaulay Porter said in a statement to USA TODAY.

McAuliffe has said he supports entering the landmark Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade who legalized abortion in the Virginia constitution.

Trump’s presence in the race

Virginia Democratic Governor Ralph Northam won his 2017 race against Republican Ed Gillespie in part because of anti-Trump fervor.

Now that Trump is out of power, Democrats in Virginia could face low voter turnout in a non-presidential election year. In the 2017 race, 47.6% of registered Virginians voted. In the 2016 presidential election, the turnout was just over 72%. In the 2020 presidential election, the turn was just over 75%.

Virginia Democratic Party President Susan Swecker said Trump’s influence was still part of the campaign.

“We are making sure voters across the Commonwealth understand to whom his (Youngkin’s) loyalty, his allegiance and his values ​​lie,” she said. “So even though Trump isn’t on the ballot, he’s still there. He’s still around.”

Wilder is not as convinced that Trump will make a difference during the election campaign. Donald Trump is gone. He’s not on the ballot, ”Wilder said.

I don’t think people are waiting to see what Donald Trump has to say about it. They are waiting to hear what these candidates themselves have to say about it. “

Another factor that could impact voter enthusiasm is that McAuliffe’s Democratic primary victory prevented two black women, Jennifer Carroll Foy and Jennifer McClellan, from making Commonwealth history as the first black woman. candidate for governor of a major party. It also prevented Virginia Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax, the second black person in the Commonwealth to win statewide elections, from landing the nomination.

Wilder criticized McAuliffe’s decision to enter the race without giving voters a clear reason to show up.

“He ran against three people of color. You must have a good reason and those three had a lot more experience than he had in elective office when he first ran. “said Wilder.

More: Lack of Party Support and Money, Along with Racism and Sexism, Mean Black Women Often Lose Elections Statewide

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Virginia Governor’s race: Trump, abortion, COVID-19 shaping elections

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