In the last days before the vote in Virginia, both sides are demanding momentum

MANASSAS PARK, Va. – The high-stakes race for the governor of Virginia entered the final part when Glenn Youngkin and Terry McAuliffe swapped accusations of sowing divisions as voters were tightly divided over returning a Democrat to office or electing a Republican to run his country. for the first time in more than a decade.

The scale and atmosphere of the duel events in the last weekend of the campaign ahead of Tuesday’s election reflected trends in recent polls. Mr. Youngkin, a Republican candidate, welcomed more than 1,000 crowds, while Mr. McAuliffe, a Democrat, hurried from morning to evening after rarely attended events.

Mr McAuliffe, who served one term as governor from 2014 to 2018, has recently shown a growing sense of urgency as he has sent some of the Democratic Party’s biggest stars to fight for him and encourage people to vote early. McAuliffe traveled more than 200 miles at 11 a.m. Saturday and made eight stops in six cities in the middle of a stormy day of a campaign urging supporters not to be complacent.

“In the early voting, we are leading significantly, but we cannot withdraw our legs,” Mr. McAuliffe told the crowd on Saturday in Norfolk, where he met with labor leaders who intended to spend the day knocking on doors.

He and his allies took this as an encouraging sign that more than 1.1 million of Virginia’s 5.9 million registered voters voted on Sunday morning, according to the Virginia Department of Elections.

But this weekend, the energy was more palpable this weekend between Mr Youngkin and his supporters, who, after more than a decade of Democratic governors, heeded Republican calls for a new direction in the country’s political leadership. Mr Youngkin presented the election as an opportunity for Virginians to send a message to the nation that Democrats are not keeping up with the majority of Americans on a range of issues, from how racial inequality is taught in schools to coronavirus-related mandates.

“The eyes of the nation are fixed on Virginia,” Mr Youngkin told an energetic crowd of hundreds of people who came to see him in Manassas Park on Saturday afternoon, a town near the suburban stronghold of Fairfax County Democrats outside Washington. In his speeches, he often attaches more importance to his campaign, saying: “This is no longer a campaign. It’s a movement. “

In interviews with voters over the weekend, it was clear that many Virginians view this election as something symbolically larger than a confrontation between two gubernatorial candidates. The competition revealed persistent divisions in the country over issues of race, class, privilege and the appropriate role of government, and became a starting point for Virginians to express their dissatisfaction with political culture.

“I’m a Hillary-Biden voter,” Glenn Miller, a lawyer from McLean, said as he stepped into a Youngkin rally in southern Fairfax County on Saturday night that gathered more than 1,000 people. He explained his turning point: working from home and listening to his teenage daughter’s teacher comment on white men as modern-day slave owners during a virtual lesson.

“A lot of people like me are angry,” he said, adding that he was able to vote for Mr. Youngkin because he didn’t associate him as a Trump Republican. “My problem with Trump was that I thought he was awkward. I don’t think Youngkin will embarrass me or the country. “

McAuliffe’s campaign sought to portray Mr Youngkin as Trump’s aide and accused him of exaggerating the fact that children by race would be divided by teachers who encourage them to view white people as bad.

“He has parents fighting parents and parents fighting teachers,” Mr said over the weekend. McAuliffe. “He turned our school boards into war zones. It is this critical theory of race that is not taught in Virginia. That’s all he’s talking about. In Virginia, this was never taught. Let’s say what it is: it’s a racist dog whistle. He runs a racist campaign from start to finish. “

Some Democratic voters said they appreciated the connection Mr. McAuliffe linked between former President Donald J. Trump and Mr Youngkin, who opposes abortion, same-sex marriage and a mandate for a coronavirus vaccine.

“I see a lot of trouble about what’s going on in the National Republican Party,” said 59-year-old Jerry Dalesandro, a retiree from Virginia Beach. “I’m a Biden fan, an Obama fan, but also more just a non-a-Trump fan.”

Mr. Youngkin tried to find a balance between keeping Mr. Trump close, but not too close. The former president recently announced he would speak at a town hall-style telephone event for Mr Youngkin on Monday. But the Republican candidate said he would not run.

For Mr. McAuliffe, the visit to Norfolk was one of many stops he made in southeastern Virginia, where he attracted small to modest crowds of 30 to 100 people. The largest crowd on Saturday was at a black church in Portsmouth, where Mr. McAuliffe was joined by South Carolina representative Jim Clyburn, a civil rights leader.

President Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris, and former President Barack Obama visited Virginia as part of McAuliff’s campaign efforts to increase voter turnout, especially during central Democratic elections such as black voters. But creating enthusiasm was sometimes difficult, as demonstrated on Saturday at the McAuliffe event in Chesapeake. Who is Mr. McAuliffe went to speak, the crowd shouting “Terry, Terry, Terry” only after the campaign staff started singing to increase the energy in the room.

There was an unpleasant memory in the minds of many Democrats of what happened in 2016 when they believed Hillary Clinton would almost certainly win the White House. “You have to remember how you felt in November 2016 when we woke up and figured out who our next president would be,” Governor Ralph Northam, who is barred from running for office due to term restrictions, told the crowd. on Saturday in Virginia Beach. “We don’t want to wake up on November 3 this year and have the same feeling.”

It was not clear at Youngkin’s events how many people are voters like Mr. Miller, a former Biden supporter who now elects a Republican. Many said they were committed Republicans, and the crowds were more diverse than usual Republican events.

In the Washington suburb of Chantilly, John and Linda Torres of Herndon were standing in a parking lot as a crowd of hundreds returned to their cars after a Youngkin rally. Mrs. Torres held a sign in Youngkin’s yard and a handful of stickers that read “Latinos for Youngkin.”

The couple said they both voted for Mr Trump as well as Mr Obama. They said they did not like the position of Mr. McAuliffe on vaccination mandates, as well as his insistence that Mr. Youngkin, by criticizing how race is taught in some schools, has made the problem where it does not exist. “I know some people say, ‘Oh, it’s all made up.’ But it’s true, “said 41-year-old Mr. Torres, a veteran.

Ms. Torres, 43, a nurse, said she and her husband were considering withdrawing their two children from public school and putting them in a Christian school. And the same impulse applied to her views on the political leadership of the country.

“We just want it to change,” she told him. Torres.

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