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“You have to worry, it’s a tight race. If Terry loses, it will scare a lot of Democrats on the Hill. It’s going to worry people about mid-terms and it’s going to make it harder to pass the president’s agenda, ”said Josh Schwerin, a Democratic strategist who worked as McAuliffe’s policy adviser and a former press secretary. “People are going to get nervous if we lose this. ”

“It would be the wrong reaction,” Schwerin added, “but it would be the reaction.”

A source close to White House thought said officials still anticipate a close race in Virginia, noting that Biden himself suggested it when he opposed McAuliffe in late July. Among their concerns is the number of undecided voters in the contest, said another source familiar with conversations between White House advisers and the Democratic Party’s national leadership. Virginia has had a Democratic streak in recent years, but if voters stay on the fence as the election approaches, it gives Youngkin the kind of openness he would need.

“Of course I think the White House is concerned,” said Chris Korge, DNC chairman of national finance and close to McAuliffe. “Knowing Terry the way I do, this guy is tireless, he never stops, he will be okay. But that will force him to run an almost perfect campaign.

The fear within the administration is real. Specifically, a third person expressed concern over the complacency of Democratic voters and promised that much of their job over the past 35 days will be to make sure these reluctant voters hand in their ballots.

“If the Democrats, if the McAuliffe campaign, if the coordinated campaign leads a strong [get out the vote] effort, which I believe they will do, I think they are going to be in a great position, ”the person told POLITICO. “But people have to show up. They have to come forward and vote.

McAuliffe, whose second and final debate with Youngkin takes place Tuesday night, doesn’t shy away from the warnings. Recently, he did interviews on cable television to lay out the issues for Democrats in Virginia and beyond.

State officials compared the first wake-up calls to those sounded in California this summer after polls showed Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom narrowly backed down on a recall attempt. Newsom successfully called the effort a GOP-led recall, called his opponents mini-Donald Trumps and mobilized Democrats before massively training his voters.

But Virginia is a much more divided state, and unlike California, not all voters receive a mail-in ballot. Korgé and others said they would breathe easier if the Biden administration and lawmakers show progress – and ultimately pass – the president’s key legislative proposals: infrastructure and a line social spending bill. left.

“Honestly, if they do the infrastructure and reconciliation, my comfort level for Terry’s victory increases by 1,000,” he said.

Schwerin pointed out that while Democrats would likely be scared to think there would be broader implications for Biden’s platform if McAuliffe lost, it would likely be due to other dynamics, including a different electorate in the election in outside of the year and the lack of a motivating anti-Trump. feeling. “I think McAuliffe is running a good campaign and he’s a good candidate,” he said. “It’s the climate.

While McAuliffe has worked to tie Youngkin to Trump – claiming the state’s progress on Covid and the economy will go into shambles under Republican leadership – Youngkin has largely resisted calls to nationalize the race. Still, Republicans see more opportunity to take advantage of Biden’s shortcomings to boost participation.

The disorder and ultimately fatal The withdrawal of the United States from Afghanistan, the rise in the prices of goods and groceries driven by inflation and a new wave of migrants to the southern border of the United States have made the GOP optimistic about the prospects of Youngkin.

“Republicans are angry and motivated, and independents are acting more like Republicans today than at any time in the last year,” said Phil Cox, the former campaign manager for the campaign. Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell of Virginia, citing a recent public poll showing independent voters backing Youngkin over McAuliffe by six points. “I think we have the best luck in over a decade.”

Chris Saxman, a conservative who is executive director of the non-partisan business group Virginia FREE, went so far as to suggest that Youngkin “might be a unicorn candidate” for the GOP.

“He’s new, he’s completely out of politics. He has never run for office before, ”Saxman said. “So he comes in this [with his] eyes wide open to what is happening in Virginia and what needs to change.

Several public polls of voters were within the margin of error, although a Monmouth University poll released on Monday showed McAuliffe retained a five-point advantage over Younkin with registered voters, with 48% of people surveyed supporting the Democrat and 43% supporting the Republican. newcomer.

Those numbers were virtually unchanged from the position of the two candidates in the August Monmouth poll. While Biden’s approval numbers have lagged in the state, largely because of the Covid-19 resurgence, respondents trusted McAuliffe, who led Youngkin 41% to 28% on the question of who they would trust more to handle the pandemic.

Those close to the White House said they have come to view Youngkin as stuck with Trump on the virus, election security and the Jan. 6 insurgency, which they believe could resonate more broadly with voters being given the proximity of Northern Virginia to the Capitol.

Sometimes, they note, Youngkin has equivocal or shifted his answers so as not to offend the party base. In a recent interview with Axios, he did not say whether he would have voted to certify the 2020 election on January 6 if he were a member of Congress. Youngkin later said he would have voted to do so.

Democrats are also encouraged by what they see as his failure to agree on a closing message.

“For a Republican to win their base has to be at maximum intensity and our base has to be at minimum intensity,” said former Rep. Tom Perriello, who ran and lost in a Democratic primary for the governor of Virginia.

Perriello said he was cautiously optimistic about the Democratic engagement efforts and the campaign and allied partnership. He also notes that this is the first gubernatorial election with a large in-person early vote and postal vote. Recent polls show there is still a party divide over how people plan to vote: most Republicans still plan to vote on election day, and a majority of Democrats have said they plan to vote before November 2.

“But that doesn’t mean I’m not terrified,” admitted Perriello. “

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