Virginia’s race tests fear-of-Trump factor as a political motivator

Virginia held elections in each of the four years Trump was in office. Each time, turnout hit a record — the highest ever in a governor’s race in 2017, the highest in a midterm in 2018, the highest in an off-year election in 2019 and the highest in a presidential election in 2020. In each of those years, Democrats scored notable victories, adding to the evidence that Virginia was increasingly becoming a Democratic state.

McAuliffe knows there is a problem without Trump ever-present in people’s minds. “There was a burning intensity the last four years for people to vote,” he said in a telephone interview on Friday. “It was exhausting for four years. It was Trump, Trump, Trump. People lived with it constantly. It infuriated and disgusted so many people. It’s not there in the same intensity.”

McAuliffe has highlighted Youngkin’s statements welcoming Trump’s endorsement, his opposition to abortion, his opposition to vaccine or mask mandates and his support for a focus on “election integrity,” despite the absence of any evidence of irregularities, as a way to tie him to Trump more closely. The more successful McAuliffe is in making the race as much about Trump as about Youngkin, the more confident he is of victory.