Former United States president Barack Obama on Saturday, October 23, joins a roster of high-profile Democrats campaigning for Terry McAuliffe, a candidate for Virginia governor in a race seen as a barometer of the country’s political direction after Joe Biden, a Democrat, won the presidency over Republican Donald Trump a year ago.
Obama told the crowd the Virginia election represented a national “turning point,” where Americans could either become more embattled in the divisive politics that characterized Republican Donald Trump’s presidency and which culminated in an attack by Trump’s supporters on the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, or “pull together” to “solve big problems.”
“I believe you, right here in Virginia, are going to show the rest of the country and the world that we’re not going to indulge in our worst instincts,” Obama said. “We’re not going to go back to the chaos that did so much damage. We’re going to move forward with people like Terry leading the way.”
McAuliffe told the crowd the election was too important to sit out, with several key issues on the ballot.
“This election is about the next chapter of Virginia and our country.… It’s about leading us out of this pandemic, keeping our economy strong, protecting voter rights, protecting abortion rights and so much more,” he said.
Opinion polls show McAuliffe, who served as Virginia’s governor from 2014 to 2018, and Republican Glenn Youngkin nearly tied in the countdown to the November 2 election.
A poll this week by Monmouth University showed Youngkin, 54, had closed McAuliffe’s 5-point lead since September by gaining ground with independent and women voters.
Youngkin’s strength in the polls during the first weeks of early voting has worried Democrats, who anticipated a comfortable lead in a state that has trended blue in recent years. Democrats flipped the Virginia legislature in 2019 and Trump lost the state by 10 percentage points in November 2020, double his margin of defeat in 2016.
Obama, who served as president from 2008 to 2016, will speak at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond on Saturday afternoon, aiming to boost McAuliffe, 64, in the final leg of the race. Biden is due to campaign with McAuliffe next week.
In a television ad broadcast on Wednesday, Obama backed McAuliffe’s stances on climate change, abortion rights and voting rights.
“I watched Terry stand strong on the values we all care about; protecting every citizen’s right to vote, fighting climate change, and defending a woman’s right to choose,” Obama said of the former governor.
The serving governor, Ralph Northam, a Democrat, cannot seek re-election because the state bars governors from serving consecutive terms. McAuliffe can run because he left office in 2018.
Both candidates for governor have dug into hotly contested cultural issues to stir up voter engagement in the off-year election, including abortion rights and how schools address the topics of race and racism with students.
McAuliffe has sought to paint Youngkin as a far-right extremist and align him with Trump, who has endorsed the Republican candidate.
In turn, Youngkin has suggested that McAuliffe is trying to advance a far-left agenda. A former private equity executive, Youngkin has focused in part on education – especially the right of parents to have a say in their children’s schooling – which has proven popular with suburban women, a key demographic.
Youngkin has tread a fine line between welcoming Trump’s endorsement and distancing himself from the former president’s false claim that the 2020 presidential election was stolen.
Last week, Youngkin dissociated himself from a rally held to support him, which was headlined by longtime Trump aide Steve Bannon and Trump himself, who spoke by phone. At the event, attendees pledged allegiance to a flag that event leaders said was present on January 6, when Trump supporters led an assault on the US Capitol.
Youngkin issued a statement saying it was “weird and wrong” to pledge allegiance to a flag with January 6 connections. – Rappler.com