Watching the tide turn so dramatically in the race between Virginia Democratic gubernatorial nominee Terry McAuliffe and Republican nominee Glenn Youngkin over the last month has been a case study in how the gross misfortunes one candidate brings upon himself can so richly benefit (and inspire) his opponent at the make or break moment in these types of bellwether races.
Here in North Carolina, we saw it last year when Democrat Senate nominee Cal Cunningham’s campaign self-destructed in early October 2020 after it had been reported that he’d had an affair, and a recent one at that. Cunningham, who had been leading in most polls prior to the revelation, proceeded to make matters worse for himself in the way he responded by avoiding reporters at times and wildly tapdancing around the issue at others. Accordingly, the normally Democrat-friendly media outlets in this state just brutalized him for how he treated them. And, of course, he lost.
The Virginia press corps, by and large, have been pretty tough, too, on McAuliffe down the homestretch, so much so that he’s even taken to stomping off TV sets in a huff and complaining about how “better questions” should have been asked, as though questions about public education matters weren’t important to Virginia voters.
As we’ve previously documented, the signs of desperation with McAuliffe have been more than evident, from bringing in fellow election denier and failed 2018 Georgia Democratic gubernatorial nominee Stacey Abrams in to campaign for him to resorting to bringing an oversized blow-up “Trump chicken” to packed Youngkin rallies. He’s also now denying clear video evidence of him walking off that TV set.
And just this morning, we have further evidence that the panic button has been mashed. In their most recent campaign fundraising email, McAuliffe’s campaign made an embarrassing admission about sagging voter enthusiasm, writing that they “thought folks would be fired up to get out the vote, but at this point, it seems like enthusiasm is at an all-time low”:
— Emily Domenech (@ehdomenech) October 21, 2021
I assure you that the cringe-meter would be exploding right now had it not already done so for Terry McAuliffe. I mean they could bring in a new one but that one would explode, too.
Obviously, these are not the signs of a candidate who feels confident in the final days of his campaign. Youngkin and his team, to their credit, are keeping the pressure on and making McAuliffe pay for his blunders big time. Polling for this race, which is now in a virtual tie, is reflective of that.
As I acknowledged before, while Youngkin is obviously the much better option here, supporters should understand he would not turn the state into solid red territory again, because that is going to take more than four years (if it could happen at all). But what he would be able to do is pull it back from the brink of blue domination with at the very least a smattering of Republican policies while GOP candidates who come after him can get to work doing what they can to build off of that (hopefully along with a Republican-controlled state legislature).
As far as I’m concerned and as a Republican in the purpling state just south of Virginia who has watched in despair as it has marched further to the left over the last several years, that’s the best reason of all to support him.