Virginia Republican Glenn Youngkin is leading former Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) by five points among likely voters in the Old Dominion’s gubernatorial matchup, according to a poll published Wednesday by the University of Mary Washington (UMW).
The poll, conducted by Research America Inc. September 7–13, found that among likely voters, Youngkin garnered 48 percent support compared to McAuliffe’s 43 percent. When factoring in all respondents, however, the poll found the inverse result, McAuliffe ahead of Youngkin by five points, 43 percent to 38 percent.
UMW surveyed 1,000 individuals, and of those, 885 were registered voters and 528 were likely voters. The margin of error among all respondents was 3.1 percent and among likely voters was 4.1 percent.
The poll results indicate that with the election less than six weeks away, the race to replace term-limited Gov. Ralph Northam (D) remains competitive in the blue-leaning state. McAuliffe has led most public polls by single digits — and often within the margin of error — but the UMW poll loosely mirrors results of another recent poll, conducted by WPA Intelligence and commissioned by Youngkin’s campaign, that also showed the Virginia Republican narrowly edging out his Democrat opponent on a full ballot.
Stephen Farnsworth, UMW political science professor and director of the university’s Center for Leadership and Media Studies, assessed the race “looks to be the closest statewide election in years.” He also suggested the Old Dominion should still be considered a battleground.
“To borrow from Mark Twain, the reports of the end of Virginia’s status as a swing state are greatly exaggerated,” Farnsworth said. “The large number of undecided voters at this stage demonstrates that either major party candidate can become the next governor of Virginia.”
While Virginia has indeed shifted leftward in recent years, another statistic shows that only once since the ’70s — in 2013 when McAuliffe narrowly beat Republican Ken Cuccinelli — has the party in control in the White House also won the bellwether off-year gubernatorial contest in Virginia.
Lending itself to this pattern is President Joe Biden’s struggling approval rating following a disastrous U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan in August, a draconian vaccine mandate announcement on September 9, and an ongoing southern border crisis. The UMW poll found that among all respondents, 44 percent approved and 48 percent disapproved of Biden’s job handling.
Farnsworth also said he believes that Democrats’ strategy of zeroing in on former President Donald Trump — a strategy McAuliffe has employed nearly religiously — is not as effective as it had been in past years.
“This election looks very different from those of the past four years, when Democrats could win by substantial margins by just focusing the electorate on President Trump. He is not president anymore, and recent Democratic advantages in statewide contests seem to have departed with him,” Farnsworth said.
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