High-profile Democrats, including former President Barack Obama, are rushing to Virginia in an 11th-hour bid to boost Terry McAuliffe in a neck-and-neck race for governor.
Mr. McAuliffe, who has led the majority of polls against GOP nominee Glenn Youngkin for months, will take the stage with several big names in the two weeks left before Election Day.
“For Terry to win, he‘ll need to build the biggest grassroots army in the history of Virginia politics. He can do it, but he needs our help,” read a campaign email signed by former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams.
Despite the star power, some experts suggest the last-minute boost may be a sign of trouble if it compares to past election cycles.
J. Miles Coleman of the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics cited a 2009 campaign appearance by Mr. Obama for former New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine, who eventually lost to Republican Chris Christie.
“They wouldn’t be bringing out the heavy hitters unless they needed to,” Mr. Coleman said. “I’ve seen many struggling campaigns go this route.”
Mr. McAuliffe, who served as governor from 2014 to 2018, will appear with first lady Jill Biden in Henrico County on Friday night, less than a week before Mr. Obama will hold a rally for the candidate in Richmond.
The Democrat will also campaign with Ms. Abrams and Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms and participate in a fundraiser with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
“There’s going to be a lot of excitement,” Mr. McAuliffe said on MSNBC after announcing the lineup. “The stakes are so huge. People don’t understand. They come out in presidential years, but they have to come out in this off-year.”
The McAuliffe campaign has put out a series of fundraising emails signed by various high-profile Democrats writing on his behalf.
Among those who the campaign has invoked in their emails are Sens. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Tim Kaine of Virginia, Democratic consultant James Carville and singer-songwriter Carole King.
Mr. McAuliffe also said President Biden will come out for him again before Election Day, though the White House has not confirmed such an event.
The president previously campaigned for Mr. McAuliffe in July in Arlington, just outside Washington.
The Youngkin campaign responded to the upcoming appearances by suggesting that their opponent is afraid of losing in the home stretch.
“Terry McAuliffe is scared because Virginians are roundly rejecting 40-year politician Terry McAuliffe‘s plans to defund the police, strip parents of their rights to have a say in their children’s education, and to fire people who don’t follow his authoritarian vaccine mandates,” said Youngkin campaign spokeswoman Macaulay Porter.
“So his response is to bring in more politicians to help draw a crowd larger than 12 people,” she said.
Ms. Porter added that her candidate is “an outsider focused on delivering for the people of Virginia and making the state the best place to live, work and raise a family.”
Polls indicate that the race is tight, with Mr. Youngkin even leading, albeit not significantly, in some polls that have come out over the past month.
A CBS News/YouGov poll taken Oct. 4-11 had Mr. McAuliffe with 50% support compared to Mr. Youngkin‘s 47%.
The poll surveyed 1,040 likely voters and had an error margin of 4.1 percentage points, an amount greater than Mr. McAuliffe‘s 3-point edge, making the poll a statistical tie.
Mr. Youngkin has also been on offense mode in the past month over Mr. McAuliffe‘s comments regarding parents’ input on education.
Mr. McAuliffe said in a debate that “I don’t think parents should be telling schools what they should teach,” a quote that Mr. Youngkin has invoked in several campaign ads.
Some analysts have also suggested the ongoing fight on Capitol Hill over two major spending bills could also play a role in the governor’s race, if Mr. Biden and Democrats can’t deliver on their promises on expanded social programs and infrastructure.
Mr. Coleman added that the last-minute stumping could be a luxury Republicans don’t have due to former President Donald Trump’s unpopularity in Virginia.
But the move by Mr. McAuliffe could more broadly indicate some level of anxiety in the campaign.
“They could just be pulling out all the stops anyway, but this coupled with close polls makes it look like they may have to,” Mr. Coleman said.
Early voting is currently underway. Election Day is Nov. 2.
The McAuliffe campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment.