Virginia governor's race a dead heat
University of Virginia professor Larry Sabato joins Shep Smith to discuss the state’s gubernatorial race, which has tightened up significantly. For access to live and exclusive video from CNBC subscribe to CNBC PRO:
Without any other hotly contested big races this fall, all eyes are on Virginia as Democrats try to weather a decline in President Joe Biden’s approval ratings.
Former Gov. Terry McAuliffe, a Democrat, and Republican Glenn Youngkin, are polling neck-and-neck in the commonwealth’s gubernatorial race.
The results of the Nov. 2 election could act as a preview of the nation’s political landscape ahead of the 2022 midterms. The only other major contest of note this November is in New Jersey, where Gov. Phil Murphy, a Democrat, is expected to win reelection.
McAuliffe, who served as governor from 2014 to 2018, aims to continue a winning streak for Democrats in statewide races that began in 2012.
Youngkin, a political newcomer and former CEO of global investment giant Carlyle Group, hopes to break that run and snag a first-in-a-decade statewide win for the GOP.
Here are the key themes of the race:
The potential effect of Biden’s approval ratings
Youngkin’s business background and wealth
The fight over Covid vaccine mandates
The Trump factor
Virginia’s role as a national bellwether
An intense final stretch
The last two presidential elections might suggest that Democrats are in solid shape to prevail. Biden, who has endorsed McAuliffe, won Virginia by 10 percentage points in the 2020 election, and Hillary Clinton won Virginia by over 5 percentage points in 2016.
Democrats also made huge gains while former President Donald Trump was in office, taking full control of the commonwealth’s government in 2019 after big wins in 2017, when they wiped out Republicans’ overwhelming majority in the Virginia House of Delegates.
All of which indicates that the commonwealth has leaned comfortably blue in the past decade.
But with Biden’s approval ratings waning in recent weeks, Republicans see an opportunity to reclaim power in Virginia and secure an advantage in the midterm elections next year. The latest polling in the governor’s race shows the candidates in a dead heat.
The gubernatorial race will be the first competitive statewide election in the nation since Biden took office. It will also be one of the last before Democrats will fight to defend their razor-thin majorities in the Senate and the House of Representatives.
Potential Biden effect
Recent polling indicates a tighter-than-expected race to succeed Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam, who is unable to seek reelection this year because Virginia law prohibits governors from serving consecutive terms.
A Monmouth University poll released Wednesday found the race between McAuliffe and Youngkin moving to a dead heat, with support identical at 46%. Previous polling from the university in September and August found McAuliffe with a 5-point lead over his Republican counterpart.
Another survey, conducted Oct. 4-11 by YouGov and CBS News, found McAuliffe with a 3-point lead over Youngkin among likely voters, an advantage within the survey’s 4.1-percentage point margin of error. McAuliffe hit 50%, while Youngkin trailed closely behind with 47%.
An Emerson College poll from earlier in October also found McAuliffe with a slight lead over Youngkin among likely voters, at 49% to 48%. A previous poll conducted by the college in September showed McAuliffe with a 4-point lead over his Republican counterpart.
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