With Virginia Democratic gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe’s campaign suffering from a case of the blahs, Democrats hope former President Barack Obama can energize them enough to win the tight race.
Republican Glenn Youngkin is battling McAuliffe, who is running to reclaim his old job, which he held from 2014 to 2018.
‘“Suburban women, especially in Northern Virginia, have been crucial to the sizable victories Democrats have enjoyed in the commonwealth since 2017. However, their support is not registering at the same level this time around.
“This is due partly to a shift in key issues important to these voters and partly to dampened enthusiasm among the party faithful,” said Patrick Murray, director of the independent Monmouth University Polling Institute.
A recent poll showed Youngkin and McAuliffe neck-and-neck with 46 percent support each among registered voters leading up to the Nov. 2 election.
But what is troubling from the Democrats is that their voters are distracted and left flat by McAuliffe’s candidacy.
Voter engagement shows that since August, when 75 percent of Republicans and 76 percent of Democrats said they were very motivated to vote, the parties have moved in different directions.
In the most recent poll, 79 percent of Republicans were very motived, while with less than two weeks until the election, Democrats were at 72 percent.
Voter enthusiasm also divides the parties.
Is Barack Obama still a political factor?
In August, 34 percent of Republicans and 21 percent of Democrats were enthusiastic about voting. Now, 49 percent of Republicans and 26 percent of Democrats are enthusiastic.
“Motivation tends to be a better indication of turnout than self-reported enthusiasm. The gridlock in Washington certainly plays a role in dampening Democrats’ mood, but there are some stumbles on the part of the McAuliffe campaign that have also had an impact. Either way, this voter engagement gap is good news for Youngkin,” Murray said.
Enter Obama, with a supporting cast that includes President Joe Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris and former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams.
“These are major key Democratic players who are going to come into Virginia and give us a wonderful shot in the arm as far as voter enthusiasm goes because everyone will be so excited to see them and it’s a great reminder of who we are as Democrats and what we’re fighting for,” Democratic former Virginia House member Jennifer Carroll Foy said, according to The Hill.
Youngkin is eschewing the name game, focusing on Virginia residents who embody his message and hitting hard at recent in-state controversies, including the sexual assault scandal at Loudoun County Public Schools.
One expert said the victory will go to the side that can energize his supporters.
“It looks like a turnout election,” said Mark Rozell, dean and Ruth D. and John T. Hazel chair in public policy at the Schar School of Policy and Government at George Mason University.
“The Republicans have the enthusiasm. Their base is excited.”