Youngkin Takes the Lead over McAuliffe in New Virginia Gubernatorial Poll

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Left: Virginia gubernatorial candidate Glenn Youngkin speaks during a campaign event in McLean, Va., July 14, 2021. Right: Virginia gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe participates in a campaign event at Lubber Run Park in Arlington, Va., July 23, 2021. (Evelyn Hockstein/Reuters)

The Virginia gubernatorial race is shaping up to be much closer than previous elections, according to a new poll by the University of Mary Washington and Research America Inc.

The poll found that 48 percent of likely voters back Republican candidate Glenn Youngkin, while 43 percent support former Democratic governor Terry McAuliffe. However, among total registered voters, 46 percent back McAuliffe while 41 percent favor Youngkin.

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“The reports of the end of Virginia’s status as a swing state are greatly exaggerated,” Stephen J. Farnsworth, director of UMW’s Center for Leadership and Media Studies, said in a news post on the UMW site. “The large number of undecided voters at this stage demonstrates that either major party candidate can become the next governor of Virginia.”

The UMW/Research America Inc. poll was conducted from September 7-13, in phone and online interviews with 1,000 Virginia residents. The total sample held a margin of error of 3.1 percent, while the likely voters sample (528 of the respondents) held a 4.1 percent margin of error.

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Republicans last won statewide office in 2009, when Bob McDonnell became governor. However, McAuliffe defeated Republican Ken Cuccinelli in the 2013 gubernatorial contest, and current governor Ralph Northam defeated Ed Gillespie in 2017 by 9 points amid backlash against President Trump among suburban voters.

In the current campaign, Youngkin has sought to portray McAuliffe as soft on crime and radically pro-abortion, while McAuliffe has characterized Youngkin as a “Trump wannabe.”

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“This election looks very different from those of the past four years, when Democrats could win by substantial margins by just focusing the electorate on President Trump,” Farnsworth noted. “He is not president anymore, and recent Democratic advantages in statewide contests seem to have departed with him.”

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