Republican Glenn Youngkin welcomed Democrat Terry McAuliffe to Virginia’s gubernatorial race by casting Mr. McAuliffe as a relic who is out of touch with voters, including his base.
Mr. McAuliffe, meanwhile, spent a good chunk of his election night celebration casting Mr. Youngkin as a Trump lackey who embraces false election conspiracies and pals around with the likes of Sen. Ted Cruz, the Texas firebrand blamed for the 2013 government shutdown that impacted the federal workforce in Virginia.
“We are kind of in this stretch of the campaign where both candidates are trying to define each other,” said J. Miles Coleman, of the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics.
Mr. McAuliffe cruised to victory Tuesday in the five-way Democratic primary race. He secured over 60% of the vote in a contest in which turnout exceeded most expectations.
Mr. Youngkin secured the Republican nomination last month at the party’s state convention.
Mr. McAuliffe, 64, served as governor from 2014 to 2018. He did not seek reelection because Virginia governors are not allowed to serve two consecutive terms.
The Youngkin camp knows that Mr. McAuliffe‘s quest to become the second governor in modern times to serve two terms hinges on his ability to energize liberal activists who see him as too moderate and were more excited about the prospect of electing the nation’s first Black woman as governor.
Two candidates in the Democratic primary were Black women: former state Delegate Jennifer Carroll Foy and state Sen. Jennifer McClellan.
Mr. Youngkin, 54, is a political newcomer and former CEO of the private equity firm The Carlyle Group. He is trying to become the first Republican since 2009 to win a statewide election in Virginia.
He has received Mr. Trump’s “complete and total endorsement.”
The McAuliffe camp also knows Mr. Youngkin‘s success depends on his ability to keep Mr. Trump’s fervent supporters in his camp without disenchanting moderate voters who could turn against President Biden.
In his election night speech, Mr. McAuliffe pounced on the Trump endorsement. He said Mr. Youngkin is more interested in doing Mr. Trump’s bidding than doing what is right for the state.
“This is the choice in this election: Glenn Youngkin is running for governor because of Donald Trump. I am running for governor because of you,” Mr. McAuliffe said. “We cannot let Glenn Youngkin do to Virginia what Donald Trump has done to our country. We cannot allow it.”
Turning to another favorite liberal punching bag, Mr. McAuliffe told the audience that Mr. Youngkin “spends every July Fourth with Ted Cruz.”
“I remind all Virginians that Ted Cruz was the author of the government shutdown, which cost so many Virginia families,” he said. “Think about that for a second: He vacations with Ted Cruz. I mean, who does that? They don’t even like Ted Cruz in Texas, let alone Virginia.”
Mr. Coleman noted that Mr. McAuliffe used a similar Cruz-inspired attack in his successful 2013 race against Republican Ken Cuccinelli.
“There is some value in bringing up the government shutdown,” he said. “You have a lot of government employees up in D.C. that would probably help the Democrats if they can hammer home the message.”
Mr. Youngkin fired back in a “Time for Change” ad featuring video clips showing the liberal Ms. Carroll Foy saying Mr. McAuliffe is “not inspiring” and “failed to keep his promises.”
“We don’t get change by recycling the same old policies and politics of the past,” Ms. Foy says in a clip. In another, she warns, “Terry McAuliffe will talk about going big and bold, but when he had his chance, he left most Virginians behind.”
Mr. Youngkin touted his outsider status in an ad titled “A New Day,” which showed him parting a sea of White men in suits.
“For too long, we have been told there is only one way to do things in Richmond: the same politicians taking us in the wrong direction,” Mr. Youngkin says. “I’m Glenn Youngkin. I’m not a politician. I spent 30 years building a business and getting big things done.”
The ad concludes with the Republican delivering his campaign message: “It is a new day here in Virginia, and the future belongs to us — not them.”