Govs. Terry McAuliffe and Phil Murphy seem to need a lot of help.
On Monday, President Biden went to Newark, New Jersey, to bolster the flagging reelection campaign of Mr. Murphy. On Tuesday, he went to Arlington, Virginia, the very heart of Democratic country in Northern Virginia, to bolster the flagging reelection campaign of former Gov. McAuliffe.
Last week, Vice President Kamala Harris went to Petersburg, Virginia, the heart of Democratic country in central Virginia, to bolster Mr. McAuliffe’s campaign as well.
Last Saturday, former President Barack Obama went to Richmond to rally for the flailing McAuliffe campaign. Interestingly enough, he didn’t go to a suburb or contested area in Richmond. Instead, he went to a rally at Virginia Commonwealth University, which is as close to Berkeley Square as one can get in Virginia.
During the 2016 presidential campaign, the Clinton team decided to hold a final get-out-the-vote rally in Philadelphia (at Independence Hall) on the Monday evening before Tuesday’s vote. By spending the last few precious hours of the campaign focused on turnout in Pennsylvania, the Clinton team made it clear to everyone – especially the Trump campaign — that Pennsylvania was likely to go red the next day. It did.
Where candidates and surrogates (like the president and vice president) choose to go and when they choose to go there tells us a lot about how the campaigns are going. Confident and surging campaigns spend their final few days trying to expand their margins; struggling campaigns try their best to hang on and make sure their most reliable voters actually show up.
In Virginia, the race has been close for several months now, as Mr. McAuliffe has been unable to put away opponent Glenn Youngkin, who is a political novice. This, although Mr. Biden won the commonwealth by 10 points just 12 months ago, Republicans have not won a statewide race in Virginia since 2009, and Democrats control both bodies of the state legislature.
Survey results have been within the margin of error since the beginning of the campaign, although Mr. Youngkin has a modest advantage among those most likely to vote. Unlike his last campaign in 2013, when he outspent the Republican candidate by $15 million, Mr. McAuliffe has been unable to bury his deficiencies as a candidate in cash. Mr. Youngkin and the Republicans have pretty much matched Mr. McAuliffe dollar for dollar.
Moreover, early voting, which usually favors the Democrats in Virginia, will wind up being about one-third of what it was in 2020. That bodes well for Mr. Youngkin.
New Jersey’s race is a different story entirely. Mr. Murphy was, at one time, up by 26 points. That lead has now shrunk to 6 points (in a survey where the margin is 3.9%), as businessman and former state legislator Jack Ciattarelli has successfully turned the race into a referendum on Mr. Murphy’s leftward governance of the generally pro-business, centrist New Jersey.
The president’s presence in Newark of all places confirms that the Democrats believe they are vulnerable in the Garden State. For context, Mr. Biden won New Jersey in November by 16 points. If you are a Democrat in New Jersey and concerned about turnout in Newark at this point in the game, you are in real trouble.
A loss in Virginia would send shockwaves throughout the Democratic Party, but they’ve had months to get ready for it. A loss in New Jersey would be an unexpected catastrophe for the president and his agenda.
Mr. Youngkin should and probably will win. Mr. Ciattarelli should and may win. Every vote matters in Virginia and New Jersey.
• Michael McKenna, a columnist for The Washington Times, is the president of MWR Strategies. He was most recently a deputy assistant to President Trump and deputy director of the Office of Legislative Affairs at the White House.