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Analysts: Youngkin gaining momentum in Virginia's race for governor

U.V.A.'s Center for Politics has shifted the Virginia governor's race from 'Leans Democratic' to 'Leans Republican' as the battle between Youngkin/McAuliffe wraps up

LEESBURG, Va. — Republican Glenn Youngkin will wrap up his campaign in Loudoun County, where the controversy over schools, race, and transgender rights has galvanized an almost Tea Party-like energy on the right. The Youngkin campaign is feeling like it has the momentum as this election heads into its closing day. 

Both Democrat Terry McAuliffe, a former governor running to reclaim his seat, and Youngkin, a political neophyte and wealthy businessman, barnstormed the state on the day before the election. 

In Loudoun County, Youngkin is tapping a rebellion on the right in a Commonwealth that had been trending blue.

"On day one, I will ban critical race theory in our schools," Youngkin told a boisterous crowd in Richmond Monday. "We are going to bring Virginia together, where we build friendships, build neighborhoods. Together. Not divisive."

McAuliffe had been in Leesburg Sunday night, running in a Halloween parade. 

Three polls in the last week have put Youngkin ahead of the former governor. The Real Clear Politics average now has Youngkin plus 1.7 points.

"Do you really want, parents here, to send your child to first grade where the teacher is not vaccinated?" McAuliffe asked voters at a rally on Monday. "Well that's what you get from Glenn Trumpkin."

Former President Trump endorsed Youngkin again on Monday, and is slated to do a tele-rally for him Monday night. Youngkin himself is steering clear. 

"I'm not going to be engaged in the tele-town-hall," he told reporters on Sunday.

McAuliffe is slated to rally his supporters at a Monday night get-out-the-vote gathering in Fairfax County.

"I'm voting Youngkin all the way," said Anne Tucker, a conservative mom with a boy in middle school and a 'Don't Tread on Me' Virginia license plate. "These kids are kids. They don't need to be pushed an agenda. It needs to be back to arithmetic, back to science, back to basics."

"The state of Virginia has wonderful schools and I think it's hullabaloo," countered Donna Cooper, a retired Loudoun County resident who is voting for McAuliffe.

Wedge issues, including abortion, are also motivating Democrats. 

 "I think women deserve the healthcare they choose," said Nancy Weinstein, an Ashburn retiree who said she voted early for McAuliffe. "And I don't want anyone else to tell me, or my children. or my grandchildren what they can and can't do with their bodies."

At Larry Sabato's Crystal Ball at U.V.A's Center for Politics, analysts have now shifted this race from "Leans Democratic" to "Leans Republican." 

"Our sense is that the race has been moving toward Youngkin, in large part because of the political environment," Kyle Kondik and J. Miles Coleman wrote. "McAuliffe’s Trump-centric campaign also just doesn’t seem as potent in a non-federal race with the former president no longer in the White House."

If McAuliffe pulls it out, it would be only the second time in decades that the party that won the White House also won the Virginia governor's mansion.

McAuliffe was the last guy to break the spell, but this time he may be facing real headwinds from President Biden's sagging approval ratings.

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