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Tipsheet

Analysis: Is Terry McAuliffe Panicking?

AP Photo/Cliff Owen

A few caveats to begin: First, beware confirmation bias. It may look to Republicans like Terry McAuliffe and the Democrats are panicking about the Virginia gubernatorial race because Republicans want to believe that's what's happening. Selective poll-watching and large, energetic rallies can sometimes convince partisans of momentum that may or may not materialize. Watching Youngkin's apparently strong final push, I'm having Romney 2012 flashbacks. I'm not sure if that's because they're apt, or because that race was scarring. Second, recall that even with genuine momentum, in a close-to-toss-up race, Virginia remains Democrats' to lose. Donald Trump lost the state by ten points just one year ago, which is why McAuliffe won't stop talking about him. It's obnoxious, obsessive, and seemingly weak, but Team Terry clearly believes nationalizing the race and relentlessly tying Glenn Youngkin to the 45th president is a political imperative: 


What may look like desperation might in fact merely be empirically correct messaging in a blue-tinted state. On the other hand, the fact that McAuliffe felt compelled to release an ad insisting that Youngkin has taken him "out of context," or whatever, on education, it's not unreasonable to conclude that the Dems would more or less ignore an attack line that wasn't working. It's also not unreasonable to conclude that the Dems rushing out a highly-defensive television ad – which amplifies Youngkin's central closing theme, in the late stages of the campaign – likely means that the attack line is really starting to sting. Public polls have generally given McAuliffe a 3-5 point lead in recent weeks, consistent with a tighter contest in a fundamentally Democratic state. But could McAuliffe's internals be showing a reality closer to the GOP numbers we analyzed last week? Or at least a pure jump ball, as the last two public polls have reflected? To their credit, Youngkin's campaign was fully prepared to refute McAuliffe's new gripe about being mischaracterized. This was obvious and sound advice


I'm not sure "McAuliffe's honesty" is really a thing, but indeed, receipts were produced


McAuliffe said what he said on the debate stage, then doubled and tripled down for weeks. Now, all of a sudden, he wants Virginians (suburban parents in particular) to believe that his own words are just some smear campaign cooked up by Youngkin? Ridiculous. McAuliffe has also made the interesting choice to further attack parents over "Critical Race Theory," accusing people concerned over or offended by racialized public schools of engaging in racist dog whistles. This smear actually validates the underlying concern in some ways, and it deliberately ignores what's actually happening in schools – yes, including in Virginia. Youngkin has a pretty good retort to the "dog whistle" line, too: 


Sharp. It would also be malpractice not to take the lead on this shocking and horrific story, first reported by the Daily Wire, which is getting results:


Youngkin and his ticket certainly do appear to be finishing strong, while McAuliffe isn't exactly acting like a confident candidate: 


Again, you can interpret this behavior two ways: It could be entitled petulance from a Democrat who feels untouchable in a blue state. Or it could be entitled petulance from a blue state Democrat who is truly nervous about his standing and is lashing out at journalists who fail to do their jobs the way Terry wants and expects them to. Parting thought: Is McAuliffe absolutely sure he wants President Biden to cross the river and campaign for him? 

I wrote above that Virginia has become a state that is Democrats' to lose. There are a few indications that they may be in the process of doing exactly that. We'll know whether the Old Dominion is well and truly lost – and fools' gold for Republicans – in less than two weeks.   I'll leave you with this astonishing, self-indulgent decision from one of the largest school districts in the state, which is a key swing area.  Are they actively trying to alienate parents, especially working parents?  The Left evidently feels like it can do whatever it wants in Virginia these days.  Will voters disabuse them of that notion, or validate it?

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