The Virginia Democrats, a party who has been for the last decade fairly successful in making the Commonwealth bluer, is now in panic mode.
Glenn Youngkin, 54, businessman, Republican, emerged as GOP's nominee during the party's convention as a compromise between the Trump loyalists and the moderates. Since early this summer, all Republicans got behind the former Carlyle CEO to try and stop Democrats from having 4 more years in the Governor's Mansion down in Richmond. Even Amanda Chase, part of the most right-wing faction of the VAGOP who had also previously announced she would run as an Independent, decided to back Youngkin.
Youngkin seems to have found, during the last month, the exact formula to Republican success in the state. His team, as sources say, has been very attentive to what Virginians care about the most and to the 2020 Presidential election results. Joe Biden won the Commonweath by a whopping 10.1 percent margin, something incredible even for a state who had been trending Democrat in the last years. That is why, even after receiving Donald Trump's "total and complete endorsement", Glenn Youngkin distanced himself from the former President.
His campaign has, in fact, been abandoning the "Trump's traditional talking points" such as the false election fraud claims. Youngkin decided to take a more moderate stance on Coronavirus (focusing his message on reopening the economy and lifting off mandates) and gay marriage, saying that he does not agree with it "but I will respect it as Governor." Though, the key to his surge in polls can be traced to one and one issue ony: education. The Republican nominee made the fight against "Critical Race Theory" his fight. From what we've been able to see in polls, K-12 parents, who weigh a lot in terms of votes, are concerned about the issue and willing to vote for the candidate who promises results.
It was during the last Governor's debate that Team Youngkin probably decided to make abolishing the teaching of CRT in Virginia their main talking point. Why? Because when discussing about the issue, Former Governor and Democratic nominee Terry McAuliffe declared "I don't think parents should be telling schools what they should teach."
On the other side, while Youngkin seems to have found enough momentum to bring Republicans to their first victory in the state since 2013, McAuliffe is in a difficult position. His internal polls give him only a couple of points ahead, and early voting, generally more Democratic than the electorate overall, is down from 2020. More importantly, the percentage that NoVA counties represent of the state's total EV is down big from 2020 and 2017. Polls from Emerson College, Fox News, Roanoke College, Echelon Insights, and Christopher Newport University all show a dip in Democrats' enthusiasm towards the election. Republicans are, at the opposite, the most enthusiastic they've been in a lot of years.
While Glenn Youngkin seems to have tied the race and surpassed McAuliffe in certain polls, this isn't an easy task for him. The Commonwealth is today a Likely Democratic State that has voted Democrat four consecutive times on the federal level, and whose last Republican Governor won his re-election in 2013. Republicans don't need to be discouraged by this though, the GOP usually fares better in Virginia when they don't have the White House. Joe Biden being President could unironically help them in the state as his approval numbers get worse and worse.
McAuliffe, was the clear favorite until two months ago. Democrats say that, since he was Governor before Northam, it should've been a downhill battle for him given that they assumed he retained Virginians' trust. At the beginning of August, according to the FiveThirtyEight average, he maintained an advantage of about 8 points. In the last two weeks what has been called by Republicans as "Youngkin-mentum" has hit the polls, destroying McAuliffe's lead and putting the Republican ahead by 0.6 percentage points, 47.6 to 47.0.
These are this month's polls, indicating in brackets the swing compared to the previous survey of the same pollster (where possible):
ROANOKE COLLEGE (LV, October 14-28)
McAuliffe 48% (-) Youngkin 47% (+7)
ECHELON INSIGHTS (LV, October 27-29)
Youngkin 49% McAuliffe 46%
THE WASHINGTON POST/GEORGE MASON UNIVERSITY (LV, October 20-26)
McAuliffe 49% (-1) Youngkin 48% (+2)
FOX NEWS (LV, October 24-27)
Youngkin 53% (+7) McAuliffe 45% (-6)
CHRISTOPHER NEWPORT UNIVERSITY (LV, October 17-25)
McAuliffe 49% (-) Youngkin 48% (+3)
SUFFOLK UNIVERSITY/USA TODAY (LV, October 21-24)
McAuliffe 45.6% Youngkin 45.2%
VIRGINIA COMMONWEALTH UNIVERSITY (LV, October 9-21)
McAuliffe 41% (-2) Youngkin 38% (+4)
EMERSON COLLEGE (LV, October 22-23)
McAuliffe 49% (-) Youngkin 49% (+1)
CYGNAL (LV, October 19-21)
McAuliffe 48% Youngkin 48%
MONMOUTH UNIVERSITY (LV, October 16-19)
McAuliffe 46% (-2) Youngkin 46% (+3)
YOUGOV (LV, October 4-11)
McAuliffe 50% Youngkin 47%