The Cook Political Report moved the Virginia governor’s race status from “leans Democrat” to “toss-up” after a poll released last week showed Republican Glenn Youngkin overtaking Democrat Terry McAuliffe with likely voters.
The ratings change announced Friday was made because even though “many of the fundamentals favor McAuliffe—and we expect he still has a slight edge—it’s Youngkin who seems to have the enthusiasm on his side,” said Cook analyst Jessica Taylor.
“That could change before November 2, much as it did in California in the closing weeks of the race,” she said, referring to the Sept. 14 gubernatorial recall election. “But Youngkin is far more difficult to make a boogeyman than replacement frontrunner Larry Elder was, whose gaffes and comments were golden gifts for [Democratic] Gov. Gavin Newsom.”
Mr. Youngkin, a businessman, leapfrogged Mr. McAuliffe in the University of Mary Washington poll conducted Sept. 7-13 by Research America with likely voters, who favored the Republican by 48% to 43%. The Democrat-led by 46% to 41% with registered voters.
The Virginia and California gubernatorial contests have been viewed as harbingers of the 2022 mid-term election, early indications of whether President Biden’s struggles with Afghanistan, the southern border and the novel coronavirus will prove a drag on Democratic candidates.
Democrats took a victory lap after Mr. Newsom crushed the recall effort by 63% to 37%, while Republicans pointed out that he did so in a heavily Democratic state with a 5 to 1 fundraising advantage.
Mr. Biden captured Virginia last year by 10 percentage points, but he won California by 29 percentage points, meaning that using the Newsom recall “as a dead-certain indicator of the future electoral environment is a dicey proposition,” said the FiveThirtyEight analysis.
Mr. McAuliffe, who served as Virginia governor from 2014-18, leads in the RealClearPolitics polling average by +2.8%.
Early voting began Sept. 17 in blue-trending Virginia, where voters will also decide the races for lieutenant governor and attorney general.