This has not been a good week for the Terry McAuliffe gubernatorial campaign. With the election just days away, the momentum is on Republican Glenn Youngkin’s side. Despite McAuliffe calling in heavy hitters like Barack Obama to help save his campaign, the race has tightened, with most polls showing the race in a dead heat after McAuliffe has had a healthy lead throughout most of the campaign.
A recent Fox News poll has Youngkin up eight points—a lead outside the poll’s margin of error. Youngkin also leads by three points in a recent survey by Echelon Insights. Youngkin now leads McAuliffe in the Real Clear Politics average and the FiveThirtyEight weighted poll average.
Parental rights in kids’ education has become a key issue of the campaign. McAuliffe has taken the side of teachers’ unions and school boards. This doesn’t hurt him within his party, as a recent Suffolk University/USA Today poll found that 70% of Virginia Democrats want school boards to have more influence on a school’s curriculum than parents. But, overall, only 39% of Virginians overall want school boards to have more influence over a school’s curriculum than parents, compared to 50% who want parents to have more control. Democrats are so out of touch on this issue that Obama’s campaign appearance in which he stated that “We don’t have time to be wasting on these phony trumped-up culture wars, this fake outrage that right-wing media peddles to juice their ratings,” backfired tremendously.
On top of this, earlier this week, the McAuliffe campaign accidentally revealed their efforts to try to kill a damaging story about the campaign hiring attorney Marc Elias. Elias is well-known for mounting legal challenges to elections. The campaign has already spent nearly $60,000 for his services, and news of the hire resulted in speculation that the McAuliffe campaign was already preparing to challenge the election results. When Fox News reporter Tyler O’Neil reached out to the campaign for comment about hiring Elias, McAuliffe’s spokeswoman Christina Freundlich accidentally included O’Neil in a message to campaign colleagues in which she asked, “Can we try to kill this?”
Further damaging McAuliffe was the TikiGate hoax from Friday. Individuals dressed up like white supremacists, including one black man, stood outside the Youngkin campaign bus, pretending to be supporters of his campaign. They turned out to be Democrat operatives, and the anti-Trump group The Lincoln Project took credit for the stunt. The McAuliffe campaign denies involvement, but the hoax is likely to damage the campaign in the final days anyway.
There are many reasons to feel good about Youngkin’s chances on Tuesday. Momentum is on his side, and the McAuliffe campaign continues to act like it’s desperately trying to stay afloat. However, my PJM colleague Stephen Kruiser says he’s “not feeling the sunshine when pondering the upcoming gubernatorial election in Virginia.”
“Despite all of the signs that things are moving in the right direction for Youngkin and the Virginia GOP, we’re probably not outside the margin of Democrat election shenanigans,” Kruiser laments. He has a point. While things continue to look good for Youngkin, his support has to be well outside the margin of fraud, not just the margin of error in polls. The Fox News poll showing him up 8 points is comforting, but next to the number of polls showing the race within a couple of points, it painfully feels like an outlier.
Bottom line: Don’t get cocky. If Youngkin is going to win, he needs to win big. Help him out.