Democratic candidate for Virginia governor Terry McAuliffe and Republican challenger Glenn Youngkin are just points apart among likely voters, poll results released Friday say.
McAuliffe leads Youngkin by a margin of 49% to 45%, with a margin of error of plus or minus 4.2%, The Wason Center for Civic Leadership at Christopher Newport University found.
Here’s a look at what could be giving Youngkin momentum and dragging down former governor McAuliffe.
Independent voters are helping Youngkin close the gap, and McAuliffe may be getting dragged down by problems President Joe Biden faces, said political analyst Bob Holsworth.
We're making it easier for you to find stories that matter with our new newsletter — The 4Front. Sign up here and get news that is important for you to your inbox.
“As Biden’s numbers have dropped among Independents, McAuliffe’s numbers have dropped among independents, and that’s what’s making this a very close, uncertain race,” he said.
Political observers say that while Youngkin has strong support among hardcore conservatives in the party, he’s also won back some suburban Republicans and other voters who abandoned the GOP during the Trump era.
“Among conservative Independents, or what I would say, center right Independents who moved away from the Republican party during the Trump era, they are back for Youngkin right now,” Holsworth said.
There’s some good news for McAuliffe in the polls: A majority of voters side with him on key issues including COVID-19, vaccines and abortion rights.
And Holsworth said the Youngkin campaign has had a few missteps this week. Youngkin renewed his call for an audit of voting machines, and lieutenant governor candidate Winsome Sears refused to say whether she has been vaccinated.
There was a steady stream of early voters at Loudoun County’s elections office on Friday. A thicket of campaign signs aimed to sway the suburban voters who are expected to decide the election.
Trump voter Adriana Melhammer said she was fired up to cast her ballot early for Youngkin.
“I’m very motivated by change. Our government is out of control. Our county is out of control. The school systems are out of control,” she said.
Democratic voter Barbara Ford said she believes McAuliffe supporters are motivated too.
“My circle, we’re all enthusiastic about McAuliffe, trying to get him back in. [There’s] a lot of stuff at stake — civil rights, voting rights, criminal justice,” she said.
The election outcome is being watched nationwide as a sign of whether Democrats in Washington could be in trouble next year.
The poll showed Democratic candidates for lieutenant governor and attorney general were in the lead, but their leads also had narrowed since August.