Next Tuesday, Virginia voters will choose their next governor in an election that has captured the attention of the media and national politics. The race will be the Democratic Party’s first electoral litmus test since Joe Biden took office in January of this year, Republicans have pinned all their hopes on businessman Glenn Youngkin, while Democrats are hoping that former Governor Terry McAuliffe will succeed in keeping Virginia blue.
The gubernatorial election is in dead heat
Youngkin and McAuliffe are in a technical tie according to polls. A Suffolk University poll showed the Republican with 45.2 % to Terry McAuliffe’s 45.6 %, a gap that is within the poll’s margin of error. Another Emerson College poll left both candidates with 48%.
FiveThirtyEight, a site specializing in election poll analysis, shows in its average of polls that the Democratic candidate only has a 1.5 % lead over Youngkin. If the numbers are correct, then expect both campaigns to have a very long night next Tuesday when the votes begin to be counted.
The Democrats have dominated Virginia for 12 years
Polls may give us the false illusion that Virginia is a swing state. The reality is somewhat more complicated. Although Virginia was long a Republican stronghold, the state has voted for Democratic candidates in all of its presidential elections since 2008. Then-candidate Joe Biden won the state’s 13 electoral votes by a comfortable 10-point margin over former President Donald Trump in the 2020 election.
The Democratic Party’s dominance has gone beyond presidential elections, with Virginia electing only Democratic Senate candidates since 2006. Likewise, the last time Virginia voters voted for a GOP governor was in 2009, twelve years ago. Although Democrats have won these elections by moderate margins, Virginia is not California, but the reality is that Joe Biden’s party has dominated Virginia politics for more than a decade.
Joe Biden is a liability for Terry McAuliffe
The Democratic stranglehold on Virginia is in real danger of ending next Tuesday and former Governor McAuliffe’s campaign has encountered a major obstacle: President Joe Biden.
Although Biden won the state easily a year ago, Virginia has joined the growing national dissatisfaction with his performance. According to a Monmouth University poll, a majority of the Virginia electorate (52%) disapproves of the president’s job, while only 43% support him. It is perhaps for this reason, McAuliffe has refrained from mentioning the president much in his speeches, focusing instead on accusing Youngkin of being a Donald Trump bigot.
Education has been a central issue in the electoral race
One of the issues that have most captured the attention of the media and the Virginia electorate is education. Loudoun County, one of the most affluent counties, has been at the center of the debate over the content of school curricula, with parents accusing the local School Board of imposing Critical Race Theory (CRT) in schools.
The education issue has also been in the public spotlight after it was revealed that the local School Board covered up a case of sexual abuse of a 15-year-old student in a school restroom, allegedly by a student wearing a skirt. The superintendent of the school in question denied the existence of this case during a meeting with parents and representatives, although it was recently revealed that the superintendent did know about the case in advance.
Youngkin has defended the role of parents in the education of their children
The Republican candidate has made education a central issue in his election campaign, promising to eliminate CRT from the state’s curricula if elected governor. Youngkin has also called for an investigation into the scandal in Loudoun County and has called for the resignation of school board members involved in the scandal.
Youngkin has also defended the right of parents to play a fundamental role in their children’s education. The McAuliffe campaign, on the other hand, has suffered after its candidate said in a debate that he “don’t think parents should be telling schools what they should teach.”
With less than a week to go before the end of the election campaign, both candidates are trying to excite all of their constituents and convince the undecided. Meanwhile, the Democratic Party is nervously awaiting next Tuesday’s outcome, knowing that a loss in Virginia could be a very bad omen for next year’s congressional elections.