“Democrats will try to raise Trump,” said George Allen, the former Republican governor and senator. “But I do not think that will be the problem in this campaign.”
These are the battle lines for the first competitive state election of Joe Biden’s presidency: Democrats are eager to nationalize the race, with Trump still injecting himself into the country’s political scene while Republicans try to focus competition on state and local issues.
But McAulife’s comeback bid is also based on voters’ positive feelings about his time – he proclaimed his accomplishments with those of his Democratic successor in his victory speech on Tuesday ̵
Meanwhile, Trump’s time in the White House was a disaster for the Virginia GOP. Ralph Northam, the outgoing governor, sailed by Republican Ed Gillespie in the 2017 gubernatorial competition, part of four years of democratic victories up and down the vote.
Conservatives argue that this year will be different: with Trump out of the vote and Republicans out of power in both Richmond and Washington, they say voters are ready for a change. And the GOP is eager to prove that the Trump-era move in the country’s suburbs – which has fueled the party’s prospects in states with Virginia’s demographic profile – is reversible. Internal voting from the Youngkin campaign, taken last week before the Democratic primary and shared first with POLITICO, causes him to follow McAuliffe within the margin of error of the vote in a head-to-head matchup, 48 percent to 46 percent.
However, McAuliffe has not turned away from his previous tenure along with the four years of Northam’s administration. The McAuliffe camp’s first digital election ad highlights his financial record as he continues to yell at Trump for Youngkin.
“I think it’s necessary for us to highlight that over the last eight years, the Government of McAuliffe and the Government of Northam have produced one of the most progressive seats in the Virginia Government that we have ever seen,” Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney, a co-chair of McAulife’s campaign, said. “Do not be surprised that we emphasize that this election, however, is about the future.”
The campaign also aims to ensure that Biden’s popularity in the state lifts all democratic boats.
“Having President Biden in the White House is an asset,” Stoney continued. “President Biden has been the person who has retreated the ship, got shots in the arms and is working on our recovery, invested in our infrastructure … and I think it’s a perfect record to run on in November.”
McAuliffe told CNN Tuesday night that he spoke with Biden shortly after he was declared the victor and that the president said he was “all in” helping his campaign.
Aides to McAuliffe claim that his sweeping primary victory – capturing 62 percent of the vote in a five-way race – shows he can replicate the same coalition of voters who promoted Biden last year while trying to reach Trump to get more involved during . McAuliffe said in an MSNBC interview on Wednesday that he did not believe Trump “has the courage” to come to the state and campaign for Youngkin.
After unrest earlier in the primary day on turnout, Democrats largely breathed a sigh of relief as all ballots were counted. Since the end of Tuesday, 488,000 votes had been collected in the gubernatorial primary election – down from the primary election in 2017, but still at almost 90 percent turnout in a supercharged faceoff between Northam and the more progressive former rep. Tom Perriello.
But there is still concern among some on the left that political exhaustion could dampen voter turnout in November, making the race a more difficult victory for McAuliffe.
“Virginia is a deep blue state when Donald Trump is president,” said Ben Tribbett, a Democratic strategist in Virginia. “I’m not sure we are anything but a purple state when he is not.”
Because of this uncertainty, virgins across the political spectrum expect the race to attract a historic amount, both because of the individual candidates and the fact that it is the most competitive election across the country this year. McAuliffe is widely known as a magnificent fundraiser, and Youngkin brings enormous personal wealth to the race, having already poured $ 12 million of his own money into his campaign.
“It will definitely be the most expensive government race in Virginia history,” said Republican President Rich Anderson, adding that he expects many external groups to be involved as well.
Democrats, meanwhile, are gathering behind the established ticket across the spectrum. Both the former state of Del. Jennifer Carroll Foy and State Senator Jennifer McClellan, who combined just over 30 percent of the vote Tuesday, pledged to support McAuliffe’s election in their post-election statement.
While McAuliffe made training and recovery from Covid-19 core campaign issues, progressives are urging him to move further left on health care and organized labor law in his platform. Virginia’s state legislature has already enacted a number of progressive policies since Democrats reversed the State House in 2019, including expanding Medicaid and adopting its own version of the suffrage law to increase access to the ballot.
However, keeping these policies in place will depend on whether Democrats maintain control in Richmond. The battle for the state delegate house is expected to intensify after the chamber turned around two years ago. An extra wrinkle: The election is being held on last decade’s short lines after the long delay in the release of redistribution data and opens up the possibility that there could be three consecutive years of legislative elections.
The gains Democrats have made over the past few years “hang on Terry’s shoulders,” said Nick Rathod, a Democratic strategist in Virginia.
“It simply came to our notice then [progressive voters] of what hangs in balance. ”
Youngkin is also trying to split progressives away from McAuliffe. One of the two ads he launched immediately after McAuliffe’s primary victory was one that largely contained Carroll Foy’s criticism of the former governor throughout the primary, opening with the former delegate saying McAuliffe “does not inspire” and failed the state.
Carroll Foy also warned that Democrats needed more than one anti-Trump message to win the state. “I think it’s fair because Trump has approved Glenn Youngkin,” she said in an interview at a polling station in northern Virginia on Tuesday before the votes were counted. “But I think leading that story is a mistake. … Attack tactics alone just won’t cut it. We need to let people know what our positive vision is for Virginia. ”