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Youngkin pulls ahead of McAuliffe in Virginia governor’s race: polls

Glenn Youngkin
Republican campaign signs for gubernatorial candidate Glenn Youngkin and delegate candidate Mark Earley, as seen in Richmond, Virginia, on Sunday, Oct. 31, 2021. |

Virginia Republican gubernatorial candidate Glenn Youngkin is gaining momentum over his Democratic opponent, former Gov. Terry McAuliffe, in the upcoming gubernatorial election, according to recent polling data.

Voters in Virginia will go to the polls on Tuesday to determine their next governor, with the gubernatorial race becoming a national story as political observers see the results as an early predictor of next year’s midterm elections. 

According to the polling website FiveThirtyEight, as of Monday morning, Youngkin had a slight lead over McAuliffe, averaging 47.7% over his Democrat opponent’s 46.7%. This 1% edge is of recent vintage, as FiveThirtyEight reported that, back in early August, McAuliffe had the lead with 50.1% versus Youngkin’s 42.2%.

According to an average of polls aggregated by RealClearPolitics, Youngkin leads with 48.4% support, compared to McAuliffe’s 46.8%.

Terry McAuliffe
A sign for Democratic gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe, as seen on display in Richmond, Virginia, on Sunday, Oct. 31, 2021. |

As with FiveThirtyEight, the RCP polling average had previously shown McAuliffe with a considerable lead over Youngkin, with the Democrat candidate having a 5% edge over Yougkin by the end of September (48.3% versus 43.3%). A Youngkin victory would represent a significant swing for Virginia, which gave President Joe Biden a 10% margin of victory in the 2020 presidential election.

Kyle Kondik and J. Miles Coleman of the University of Virginia Center for Politics wrote in a commentary published Oct. 14 that they believed Youngkin was able to pace with McAuliffe because of “some of the advantages that Democrats enjoyed in Virginia during Donald Trump’s presidency.”

“Though the McAuliffe campaign has worked relentlessly to tie Youngkin to Trump, an unpopular figure in the Commonwealth who has endorsed Youngkin several times, President Biden’s weakened approval ratings weigh on Democrats,” wrote Kondik and Coleman.

“Congressional Democrats’ lack of action on big-item legislation, specifically on infrastructure and social spending, also seems to be dampening enthusiasm among their rank-and-file voters.”

The Virginia gubernatorial race has garnered nationwide attention, with former president Donald Trump publicly endorsing Youngkin, while Vice President Kamala Harris and former president Barack Obama campaigned on behalf of McAuliffe.

While Democrats have tried to portray Youngkin as an extremist due to his ties to Trump, McAuliffe has taken flack for remarks at a gubernatorial debate stating that he was “not going to let parents come into schools and actually take books out and make their own decisions.” McAuliffe maintained that “I don’t think parents should be telling schools what they should teach.”

McAuliffe’s comments came as outraged parents have descended on school board meetings to condemn the inclusion of sexually explicit material in school libraries. The debate about the role of parents in education has only intensified after the U.S. Department of Justice sent out a memo asking federal law enforcement agencies to work with local leaders to “facilitate the discussion of strategies for addressing threats against school administrators, board members, teachers, and staff.”

The DOJ memo was written in response to a letter from the National School Boards Association warning that “threats and acts of violence” against school board members and school officials “have become more prevalent” and suggesting that expressing concern over controversial curriculum amounted to “domestic terrorism.”

The issue of education has continued to loom large over the election, as reporting about two sexual assaults in Loudoun County at two separate high schools at the hands of the same trans-identified male has led to allegations of a cover-up on the part of local officials. The first sexual assault occurred as the district was considering a policy that would allow trans-identified students to use bathrooms that correspond with their gender identity as opposed to their biological sex and the second assault occurred after the policy was enacted. 

The gubernatorial race is not the only election taking place in Virginia on Tuesday. Virginians will also select a lieutenant governor, an attorney general and a member of the House of Delegates. While fewer polls have been taken of the other two statewide races, most polls show Democrat Hala Ayala narrowly leading Republican Winsome Sears in the lieutenant gubernatorial race and Democrat incumbent Attorney General Mark Herring narrowly leading his Republican challenger Jason Miyares. 

A poll from Roanoke College conducted from Oct. 14 to Oct. 28 shows Ayala leading Sears, 46% to 44% and Herring leading Miyares 46% to 45%. In a poll taken by The Washington Post from Oct. 20-26, Ayala leads Sears 50% to 46% among likely voters while Herring leads Miyares 50% to 44%. The Washington Post poll found Biden’s approval rating underwater by 7 points, while a Fox News poll finding a significant lead for Youngkin measured the president’s approval rating at 43%, with a disapproval rating of 56%. 

Republicans are working to take back the House of Delegates after losing control of the chamber in 2019. Elections Daily, which keeps track of all 100 seats on the ballot, sees Democrats favored in 48 seats, Republicans favored in 43 seats and neither side favored in nine toss-up races. 

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