Democrats leading in statewide races; Republicans more enthusiastic about election

Published: Oct. 20, 2021 at 11:34 AM EDT
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ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) - A recent Roanoke College Poll indicates while Democrats are leading in each statewide race, Republicans are more enthusiastic about the November general election in Virginia.

The poll has Democrat Terry McAuliffe leading Republican Glenn Youngkin by 7% in the race for governor. For lt. governor and attorney general, it shows Del. Hala Ayala and incumbent Mark Herring leading their Republican opponents, Winsome Sears and Jason Miyares.

Republicans do lead in one area- enthusiasm.

“We built out an organization of over 100 people. They’re not going away. These are Republican Party of Virginia employees who are going to stay here,” Republican Party of Virginia Chairperson Rich Anderson said.

Anderson says the apparatus he’s helped create is generating that enthusiasm among Republicans. Meanwhile, he says Democrats are not enthusiastic about their choices.

“They represent the past and what they’re having to bring into Virginia to speak on their behalf are individuals from the past. Politics and elections are all about the future,” he said.

The chairwoman of the Democratic Party of Virginia, Susan Swecker, disagrees, and says they’re bringing in former President Obama and other high-profile Democrats to further energize voters. Speaking of history, she says Terry McAuliffe does hope to buck one historical trend again.

“The history in Virginia is that the party out of power in the White House is the party that wins. We’ve had, since 1964, the opposite party has run the governor’s mansion and there’s only been one person that’s broken that curse and that was Terry McAuliffe in 2013 and I’m confident he’s going to do it again,” Swecker said.

President Joe Biden beat former President Donald Trump by ten percentage points in Virginia. Democrats are hoping to capitalize on Trump’s unpopularity in the state.

“The last thing we need is a governor that’s going to have a hotline access to Donald Trump that’s going to give him marching orders every day,” Swecker said.

Political analyst and director of the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics, Larry Sabato, says focusing on Trump is good politics for Democrats.

“He may not be president but he absolutely refuses to leave center stage. Not a day goes by that he doesn’t say something nasty or controversial and people hear about it,” Sabato said.

The bad news for Democrats, according to Sabato? Voters are not showing up early like last year.

“They haven’t shown they care nearly as much about this as they did in 2020 and that’s when you have an upset,” he said.

Sabato says congressional inaction on student debt and other progressive priorities could be depressing turnout.

“If they actually past something like the infrastructure bill before the election, that would help McAuliffe, but they show no real signs of doing that,” he said.

With McAuliffe holding onto a lead, largely within the margin of error in most nonpartisan polls, Republicans and Democrats agree on one thing: the race is going to be close.

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