Dead heat, squared: Youngkin catches McAuliffe in Virginia

AP Photo/Cliff Owen

Two polls, two ties — or four, if you count the previous two surveys in Virginia’s gubernatorial race. In a state that Joe Biden won by ten points a year ago, and a state that hasn’t elected a Republican to statewide office in at least a decade, this election shouldn’t even be close. And yet Glenn Youngkin has managed to catch former governor Terry McAuliffe in the final days of the contest.

First up, the USA Today/Suffolk poll (via NRO):

Democrat Terry McAuliffe and Republican Glenn Youngkin are tied at roughly 45% each, according to a new USA TODAY/Suffolk University Poll released Tuesday. But roughly 5% of likely voters say they are still undecided a week before the Nov. 2 election. …

The USA TODAY/Suffolk University Poll, which has a 4.4% margin of error, shows a significant chunk of Virginia voters are overwhelmingly pessimistic about the country’s direction.

Approximately 66% said it is on the wrong track versus about 26% who say it is going in the right direction. …

Those same voters who were surveyed have a more optimistic view of their state compared to the rest of the country, however. The poll found 49.8% said Virginia is on the wrong track versus 43.6% who believe it is heading down the right path. But, almost two-thirds of voters said Virginia’s economy had either gotten worse or stayed the same over the past four years. Twenty-nine percent said the state economy had improved.

Who was it that said, “It’s the economy, stupid”? Oh, right — the same guy who’s now saying that it’s all about the “hate” in Virginia. The desperation of James Carville in a down economy is truly something to behold.

But in this case, it’s not all about the economy:

Asked who should have more of an influence on a school’s curriculum, 49.8% sided with parents compared to 38.8% who said school boards, according to the poll.

That eleven-point gap overlays almost perfectly over Joe Biden’s margin of victory no?

Next up is Emerson, which has seen this as a tight race for the last several weeks. The change from McAuliffe leading 49/45 in mid-September to a 48-all dead heat today is a margin-of-error shift, but combined with the trendlines from other pollsters, it looks significant:

Since the last Emerson/Nexstar poll in early October, McAuliffe has lost 1 point of support, while the undecided number of voters has gone up 1 point, and Youngkin’s support has stayed the same.

McAuliffe leads with women (52% to 44%), voters under 50 (54% to 41%), Black voters (71% to 24%), and Hispanic voters (48% to 47%). Youngkin leads with men (53% to 44%), voters over 50 (61% to 42%), and White voters (56% to 42%).

Youngkin is leading in the Western region of the state (the 5th, 6th, and 9th congressional districts) 65% to 32%. Voters in the Eastern region (the 1st, 2nd, and 7th congressional districts) are also breaking towards Youngkin, 51% to 42%.

In the Southeast region (the 3rd and 4th congressional districts), McAuliffe is leading 60% to 36%. McAuliffe also leads in Northern Virginia (the 8th, 10th, and 11th congressional districts), 62% to 36%.

These are the more-or-less traditional splits one expects to see in Virginia. Youngkin doesn’t expect to win NoVA or Richmond, or necessarily be competitive in those areas of the state. He has to just hope to contain McAuliffe’s advantages there and hold the margins down while boosting performance in RoVA. That comes down to a turnout-model prediction, as Suffolk’s pollster tells USA Today.

And that’s where McAuliffe and Democrats should be very, very worried. With inflation and supply shortages hammering families across America and Democrats taking a sharp turn toward the progressive Left, enthusiasm for McAuliffe’s position as a representative of the Democratic Party establishment is not going to run high. That will be especially true among black voters, where McAuliffe is only getting 81% support rather than the 90%-plus he needs to win. If black voters don’t turn out — and plenty of them are unhappy with McAuliffe’s move to bigfoot the primary — McAuliffe and the Democrats are toast.

One still has to think McAuliffe is the favorite going into Election Day a week from now, but he’s fading — and it should never have been this close in the first place.