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Their View | Virginia remains a bright hue of purple

Their View | Virginia remains a bright hue of purple

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Following the 2017 “blue wave” elections that saw Democrats win majorities in both chambers of the General Assembly, and the fact that a Republican has not won a statewide race since 2009, many pundits declared that Virginia was now a blue state and that the GOP was destined to remain a minority party. But as Mark Twain might have said, “Rumors of (Republicans’) demise have been greatly exaggerated.”

Proof that the commonwealth is still up for grabs came in the form of a Monmouth poll this week putting the gubernatorial race between former governor and Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe and Republican newcomer Glenn Youngkin as a dead heat less than two weeks before the election. Youngkin was also polling five points higher than McAuliffe (48–43) among Virginia independents.

“The gridlock in Washington certainly plays a role in dampening Democrats’ mood, but there are some stumbles on the part of the McAuliffe campaign that have also had an impact,” Patrick Murray, director of the independent Monmouth University Polling Institute, said.

One of those “stumbles” has been McAuliffe’s adamant refusal to admit he was wrong when he declared during a debate with Youngkin that parents should have no say in what public schools teach. Instead, he doubled down on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” calling his opponent’s — and Virginia parents’ — valid concerns about Critical Race Theory nothing but “a racist dog whistle.”

But given that 56% of independents in Virginia view CRT either “unfavorably” (31%) or “very unfavorably” (25%), according to a Morning Consult poll, that was another unforced error on McAuliffe’s part.

On Saturday, former President Barack Obama was scheduled to come to Virginia to campaign for McAuliffe. Obama won Virginia in 2008 and 2012, so he is popular here. But having to bring in heavy-hitters like the former president, President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris is basically an acknowledgment by McAuliffe and Virginia Democrats that the race isn’t a sure thing for them.

That may not even be the best strategy for McAuliffe’s campaign in the final weeks, given that Obama taught CRT at the University of Chicago Law School, according to his former student, United Airlines President Brett Hart. And given the fact that McAuliffe muscled out two Black female legislators for the nomination, even having Obama stump for him may not be enough to bridge what Murray called Democrats’ “enthusiasm gap.”

The seeming failure of the bipartisan Virginia Redistricting Commission, which hasn’t been able to agree on any legislative maps and now seems to be going down the same path regarding congressional districts, is more evidence that neither major party should take voters in the commonwealth for granted.

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