He’s raised record amounts of money, spent more than double his opponents at $53,000 a day, fielded an army of 5,500 volunteers and drawn the eyes of the nation when a former U.S. president campaigned with him.
But Tuesday - a week before the Virginia Democratic primary for governor - a poll showed that Terry McAuliffe, the former Democratic National Committee chairman, was in a dead heat in a survey he led solidly just two weeks ago.
The poll released by Public Policy Polling, a nonpartisan firm based in Raleigh, N.C., showed Mr. McAuliffe neck and neck with state Sen. R. Creigh Deeds, and that his support has slipped in the two weeks since the last poll numbers were released.
The McAuliffe campaign says the numbers confirm what they already knew: The race is going to be tight.
“Since we have been in this thing, we’ve been out seven days a week, 18 to 20 hours a day. We’ve been everywhere. Some people have been surprised with the depth,” Mr. McAuliffe said.
The race could hinge on voter turnout, but money has dominated discussions of the campaign. Mr. McAuliffe made headlines with the cash he raised from across the country. Famous friends, including Donald Trump, wrote him checks.
In the last two-month reporting period ending May 27, Mr. McAuliffe raised $1.8 million to make his total haul this campaign $6.9 million. Mr. Deeds raised more than $676,000, and former Delegate Brian J. Moran raised about $844,000.
Mr. McAuliffe spent slightly more than $3 million in the past two months, while Mr. Deeds spent about $1.4 million and Mr. Moran spent almost $1 million.
When news broke that the legendary moneyman and talk show staple would be running for governor, “carpetbagger” was the word that bubbled from the lips of political watchers.
But in a race where only one of the four contenders - Mr. Deeds - was born in Virginia, many observers were unaware that Mr. McAuliffe had called Northern Virginia home for 17 years.
He and his wife, Dorothy, moved to McLean when their eldest daughter was a baby. She turns 18 on Friday - just in time to vote in the primary, Mrs. McAuliffe said.
She described Mr. McAuliffe as a family man, someone who attends the children’s sporting events and exhaustively documents their lives. On birthdays, he brings out videos from the fireproof filing cabinet where he keeps dozens of photo albums and DVDs that he’s created.
He never stops, Mrs. McAuliffe said. When he sits down at his desk, he doesn’t get up until it is cleared of all papers. “He’s happiest when he’s working hard,” she said. “He’s just optimistic energy.”
Rep. Gerald E. Connolly of Fairfax County said Mr. McAuliffe did his due diligence on the campaign trail.
“He is the quintessential salesman - and I mean that positively,” said Mr. Connolly, who is not endorsing any candidate for governor. “He is selling his connections, his ability to bring jobs, his ability to build businesses … to help revive hard-pressed parts of the state. That is his narrative and that is what he is selling, and the question is: Does that resonate with voters?”