RICHMOND, Va. — Democrat Terry McAuliffe and Republican Glenn Youngkin barnstormed Virginia on Monday in their final get-out-the-vote push on the eve of the governor’s election — the first competitive statewide election since President Biden took office in January.
Campaigning with former Gov. Bob McDonnell and former Sen. George Allen in Roanoke, Mr. Youngkin said the election is “our moment to change the trajectory of this great commonwealth.”
“This is our moment to come together, lock arms and lead,” Mr. Youngkin said. “Together, we can make this happen, but we must, must show up en masse tomorrow.”
Mr. McAuliffe closed out his campaign with a familiar warning: Mr. Youngkin is cast from the same mold as former President Donald Trump.
“We have rejected the racism, the hate, the division and the lies of Donald Trump twice. And tomorrow, we will do it again,” Mr. McAuliffe, 64, said on social media.
Mr. Youngkin, 54, a former private equity CEO and political newcomer, started as an underdog but entered the final hours of the campaign locked in a neck-and-neck race with Mr. McAuliffe in a state that Mr. Biden won a year ago by double digits.
Mr. Youngkin is fighting to become the first Republican to win statewide since 2009 and hand the Republican Party bragging rights heading into the 2022 midterm elections, when Democrats will be defending their fragile grip on the House and Senate.
Mr. McAuliffe, meanwhile, is out to prove that the Democratic takeover of Richmond in recent years was no fluke and that concerns about Mr. Biden’s struggles are overblown.
Tying Mr. Youngkin to Mr. Trump has been the crux of his campaign.
Mr. Trump fed the narrative Monday by issuing a statement calling on his supporters to vote for Mr. Youngkin.
“Get out and vote for a man who will be a great governor, Glenn Youngkin!” Mr. Trump, who is banned from Twitter, said in a statement through his Save America political action committee.
Mr. Trump called Mr. McAuliffe “a low-life politician who lies, cheats and steals” and a “high-tax governor.” He also participated in a virtual rally for Mr. Youngkin.
Mr. Youngkin has been walking a fine line between embracing Mr. Trump and distancing himself from him. He hopes to attract Trump supporters while winning over independent voters who oppose the former president.
The Republican nominee also has been working to combat Mr. Trump’s claims of election fraud. He said he believes the 2020 election in Virginia was clean.
Mr. Trump leaned into the issue Tuesday. He said he remains concerned about election security in Virginia and the “way you beat it is to flood the system and get out and vote.”
Mr. McAuliffe had four rallies planned for Tuesday but canceled an event in Virginia Beach. The campaign did not respond to a request for more details on the schedule change.
This is the first election since Virginia adopted new voting laws, including 45 days of early voting. More than 1.1 million people have already voted, according to the nonpartisan Virginia Public Access Project.
Youngkin supporters at the rally in Richmond told The Washington Times that they cast their ballots when in-person voting began on Sept. 17.
“My top issue is when they started screaming about defunding the police because I’ve been a police officer for 35 years,” said John Bandy, a retired law enforcement officer from Richmond. “I’ve seen officers there during the riots and everything else that was happening.”
Voters also will go to the polls Tuesday in New Jersey to decide the race pitting Gov. Phil Murphy, a Democrat, against Republican former General Assembly member Jack Ciattarelli.
New Jersey voters also will decide General Assembly and Senate races.
Virginians will decide whether Democrats will retain control of the House of Delegates. Democrats flipped control of the chamber in 2019 after tapping into the anti-Trump sentiment in the state, including suburbs that were once reliable Republican strongholds.
The contests are the first tests of the electorate since Mr. Biden took office. The national mood has since shifted.
Polls show Mr. Biden’s approval rating is underwater, including in Virginia. An NPR/PBS/Marist survey released Monday found 44% of Democrats and Democratic-leaning voters want someone other than Mr. Biden atop the party’s ticket in 2024, compared with 36% who want him to seek reelection.
Mr. McAuliffe has been navigating the political headwinds from Washington and has complained about Mr. Biden and congressional Democrats’ struggles to enact legislation.
He recently campaigned with Mr. Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, and he hoped to get a bounce from appearances with former President Barack Obama and former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams.
Mr. McAuliffe has been trying to regain his footing in the race since the second debate, when he said, “I don’t think parents should be telling schools what they should teach.”
The statement has been a political gift for Mr. Youngkin. He has focused his closing message on the issue of education as a way to fire up the Republican base and independent voters frustrated with coronavirus school closures and concerned about what schools are teaching.
“The momentum certainly seems to be behind the Youngkin campaign, but Democrats have historically had a very good voter turnout machine in Virginia,” former Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling, a Republican, said Monday on NewsNation’s “Morning in America.” “So it is a cliche, but it is true — it really does come down to … who has cast early votes, who has cast no-excuse absentee voters and, of course, who shows up at the polls tomorrow.
“This race could go either way depending on voter turnout.”
Mr. Youngkin promised Monday to cut taxes, slice regulations and defend the state’s right-to-work laws if he is elected. He said he would raise teachers’ salaries, expand charter schools and ban critical race theory in public schools. He also pledged to bolster law enforcement salaries and protect religious freedom and gun rights.
“It is all eyes on Virginia because so goes Virginia, so goes the nation,” he said.
Mr. McAullife said he would boost teachers’ pay, ensure that all Virginians have broadband access and expand access to quality health care. He said he would expand pre-kindergarten education and stick with mask mandates in schools.
“We don’t want to go back,” Mr. McAuliffe said during an appearance on ABC’s “Good Morning America.” “As you know, I’m running against someone who doesn’t believe in a woman’s right to choose, doesn’t believe in gay marriage, doesn’t believe humans contribute to climate change, and you know we are done with all that.
“We need to move forward,” he said.
• Seth McLaughlin and Mica Soellner reported from Washington.