With just days to go before the gubernatorial election in Virginia, a national mainstream media outlet reporter asked Democrat Terry McAuliffe a surprising question.
During an interview at a campaign stop, Jonathan Karl said to Mr. McAuliffe: “We’ve got [failed Georgia gubernatorial candidate] Stacey Abrams in here, two visits by the president, a visit by the Former President Obama, a visit by the first lady, a visit by the vice president. Why all the — why do you need all the help?”
“Well,” Mr. McAuliffe said, “We did this last time. I mean, we did the same thing in ’13. I mean, we always bring them in. This is what — this is the biggest race in America. Who doesn’t want to be here?”
It was a telling question.
Mr. McAuliffe suddenly finds himself locked in a tight race just six days before Election Day. A new poll released this week shows Republican Glenn Youngkin taking the lead for the first time in the race, edging out McAuliffe 43% to 41% with 11% of respondents still undecided, according to the survey for the conservative Presidential Coalition.
Mr. McAuliffe has called out the big guns to help him. Vice President Kamala Harris has campaigned for him, and President Joe Biden on Tuesday made his second trip to the state in hopes of installing Mr. McAuliffe into the governor’s mansion again.
Former President Barack Obama dropped by over the weekend, seeking to link the Republican to former President Donald Trump, saying his opponent Glenn Youngkin encourages “lies and conspiracy theories” about the January 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol.
“Either he actually believes in the same conspiracy theories that resulted in a mob, or he doesn’t believe it, but he is willing to go along with it, to say or do anything to get elected. And maybe that’s worse … because that says something about character,” Mr. Obama said.
Meanwhile, Mr. Youngkin is targeting President Joe Biden, saying his is a “failed presidency,”
“You can’t help but look at President Biden and recognize what a failed presidency looks like,” Mr. Youngkin said on Fox News. “I mean, you look at Afghanistan, you look at the border, you look at our economy, you look at the fact that everything he’s doing seems to be making America worse, and I’m going to go to work and make Virginia better.”
As for his opponent — a longtime fundraiser for Bill and Hillary Clinton who has already served as the state’s governor — Mr. Youngkin says the “sun is setting” on his political career.
“You know, down the stretch here, Virginians are so focused on what their governor is going to do for them when I’m governor, and we’re going to get our taxes down, and we’re going to get our job machine cranked back up, make our neighborhoods safe. And we are, in fact, going to make sure that our schools are teaching our children how to think and not what to think,” the Republican said.
For his part, Mr. McAuliffe has admitted that Mr. Biden might drag him down, what with rising inflation, soaring gas prices, and supply chain issues crushing the economy as he supports spending trillions more on infrastructure through his “Build Back Better” plan.
“We are facing a lot of headwinds from Washington,” Mr. McAuliffe, a former head of the Democratic National Committee, said earlier this month. “As you know, the president is unpopular today, unfortunately, here in Virginia, so we’ve got to plow through.”
Mr. McAuliffe has been involved in politics for most of his life, running for Virginia governor (unsuccessfully) in 2009 and winning in 2013. And while he moved out of the governor’s mansion in 2018, he wants back in badly.
Although he’s been a successful businessman, he’s a consummate insider, telling The New York Times in 1999, “I’ve met all of my business contacts through politics. It’s all interrelated.” And he went so far as to acknowledge that the success of his business dealings stemmed in part from his relationship with Bill Clinton.
This is why it’s ironic that Mr. McAuliffe once said politicians should just fade away after servings.
“You know, listen, I’m also open if people want to talk about term limits. I just think sometimes too many people stay in politics too long,” Mr. McAuliffe said in 2009. “Get in, make your mark, and go and do something else. Let’s continually bring new people into politics with lots of new ideas, it’s good for the process, it’d be great for Virginia, it’d be great for this country.”
But from the looks of things — the endless steam of high-powered politicos into the state to stump for him — Mr. McAuliffe is worried.
And maybe he should have taken his own advice to just “go do something else.”
• Joseph Curl was a former White House reporter and current columnist for the Washington Times.