By Michael Ginsberg
As Republican Glenn Youngkin moves into a virtual tie with Democrat Terry McAuliffe, both gubernatorial candidates are focusing on the Washington, D.C., suburbs and exurbs of northern Virginia.
In the final month of the campaign, Youngkin scheduled at least 11 events in the three most populous Northern Virginia counties, Fairfax, Loudoun and Prince William, and McAuliffe scheduled at least seven. President Joe Biden won those three counties by a combined 369,467 votes during his 2020 presidential election victory, nearly 82% of his total margin of victory in the state. Both candidates understand that if Youngkin can keep his margins in those three counties close, he will have a strong chance to win the governorship.
Youngkin hopes that a focus on education will help him improve his margins among these suburban voters, many of whom swung Democratic during the Donald Trump presidency. Biden improved on former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s 2016 margins in Fairfax, Loudoun and Prince William by about 98,000 votes. (RELATED: Republicans Take Education Fight To Voters With Congress Slow To Act)
During an appearance at the Burke Volunteer Fire and Rescue Department, the Republican promised a ban on critical race theory (CRT) and an investigation into the mishandling of sexual assault allegations in Loudoun County Public Schools.
CRT holds that America is fundamentally racist, yet it teaches people to view every social interaction and person in terms of race. Its adherents pursue “antiracism” through the end of merit, objective truth and the adoption of race-based policies.
“The left, liberal progressive movement, they’ve inserted political operatives into our school system, disguised as school boards, they shut parents out, and concealed the truth,” Youngkin said. “We must fix this now. Those who are responsible must be fired or resign immediately.”
One man who attended the Burke rally, an accountant, explained to the Daily Caller that he is a life-long resident of Northern Virginia. He described his parents as “JFK Democrats,” but watched the party move further to the left over his lifetime. The accountant also cited media bias towards Democrats during the COVID-19 pandemic, noting a debunked story spread by the Rolling Stone claiming that a large number of ivermectin overdoses prevented an Oklahoma hospital from treating gunshot victims.
Another rally-goer complained of Zoom meetings and shutdowns during the pandemic, and expressed concern that “every American under 50” would experience socialism in their lifetimes.
McAuliffe has made Trump the center of his campaign, hoping that the specter of the former president will keep suburban and exurban Virginians in the Democratic column. After The Lincoln Project sent operatives dressed as white supremacists to crash a Youngkin rally, a McAuliffe spokesman asserted that Youngkin “embraced white nationalists.”
Surrogates for McAuliffe have also attempted to tie Youngkin to the Jan. 6 Capitol riot. During an Oct. 26 appearance with McAuliffe, Biden implied that Youngkin was just as much an “extremis[t]” as “a mob driven to assault the Capitol.” Former President Barack Obama added that Youngkin either “believes in the same conspiracy theories that resulted in a mob” or “is willing to go along with it… to get elected.”
Tying Youngkin to Trump and bowling over Virginians with Democratic Party stars like Obama, Vice President Kamala Harris, and voting rights activist Stacey Abrams may not have McAuliffe’s desired effect. As Biden’s approval numbers began to drop following the U.S.’s deadly withdrawal from Afghanistan, Youngkin began to climb in the polls.
The strategy also caused McAuliffe to initially ignore, and then mishandle, education, the number one issue for likely Virginia voters. Among those voters for whom education was the number one issue, Youngkin is leading by nine points, a Washington Post poll found.
Another poll, from Fox News, found Youngkin winning self-identified parents by 14 points.
“I don’t believe that parents should be telling schools what they should teach,” McAuliffe declared at a debate during a discussion about sexually explicit reading materials. Instead of backtracking and apologizing for the remarks, however, McAuliffe asserted that Youngkin’s position in favor of a parental notification bill was a “racist dog whistle.”