Virginia’s 2021 primary season is entering its final days, with Democrats staging their last gubernatorial debate and candidates in a handful of House of Delegates primaries making their final arguments to the relatively small number of voters who will head to the polls.
There are a few things to look for in these last days: the gaffes and stumbles that can end the careers of even the most seasoned pols and the issues that look most likely to carry over into the general election.
Let’s go to the top of the ticket, where the conventional wisdom is pointing  to Terry McAuliffe winning the gubernatorial primary. Though there is still an outside chance McAuliffe won’t win — and a McAuliffe loss would be the biggest story to hit the commonwealth’s political scene since Dave Brat defeated Eric Cantor in the 2014 7th Congressional District GOP primary — the former governor appears to have the clear advantage.
But that doesn’t mean McAuliffe is invincible. In Tuesday night’s debate, Del. Lee J. Carter (Manassas) — who is also seeking reelection in the 50th House District, where he faces two primary challengers — exposed a McAuliffe weakness: He’s yet to credibly answer the question “why me?”
According to the Virginia Mercury’s Graham Moomaw , Carter said: “This is the first opportunity for the Democratic Party to define what it is going to be after Donald Trump is gone. And he is gone.”
And: “We can’t just be a party that is opposed to the other guys. We have to fight for something.”
McAuliffe’s answer was to point viewers to his website, where they could read his “131 pages” of policy ideas. Let’s be honest: The only people actively reading his policy ideas are GOP opposition researchers.
The front-runner’s lack of specifics, though, allowed former delegate Jennifer Carroll Foy (Prince William) to say McAuliffe already had his chance and failed. It was high-octane hyperbole. But it reflects a long-standing progressive view — and a longtime Carroll Foy tactic — that McAuliffe represents all that’s wrong about politics.
Odds are the charge won’t deny McAuliffe the nomination. But look for versions of what both Carroll Foy and Carter have said about McAuliffe to resurface in the general election.