Leahy: For Glenn Youngkin and Terry McAuliffe, There’s Much Work and Little Time

Regarding the most recent polling data on Virginia’s statewide races, showing close races for the state’s top job and a large number of still undecided voters, former governor Doug Wilder (D) said it best: Glenn Youngkin and Terry McAuliffe “have work to do.”

For the commonwealth’s political junkies, it seems McAuliffe, the Democratic gubernatorial nominee, and Youngkin, the Republican gubernatorial nominee, have not stopped working since winning their respective party nominations. President Biden has already made a campaign appearance on McAuliffe’s behalf — in July.

Why, then, does the Virginia Commonwealth University poll show not just a statistical dead heat — McAuliffe leads Youngkin 40-37 percent, well inside the poll’s 5.23 percent margin of error — but a whopping 23 percent of voters either undecided or “unwilling” to vote for either candidate?

Possibly because there are much bigger issues on people’s minds than the statewide races. That makes sense. Voters traditionally don’t begin to pay attention to Virginia’s races until after Labor Day.

But among those who identify themselves as likely voters, there are a few big issues. The Roanoke College Poll found the top issue far and away is the economy (26 percent). A distant second: the coronavirus (9 percent).

Those numbers say the Youngkin campaign’s law-and-order push could be a non-starter with folks outside the GOP base. “Police” only registers as the top issue with 1 percent of those surveyed. “Crime” pulled a similarly dismal 1 percent.

Can a statewide ad blitz hitting McAuliffe as soft on crime change those numbers? We shall see.

But the Roanoke College numbers also say Youngkin’s initial push on the economy was the right move. The question for the GOP nominee has always been how to improve on already improving economic data. That’s where Youngkin has “a lot of work to do.”

And the work is piling up. The Northam administration took a bit of a victory lap in a news release noting the continuing decline in Virginia’s unemployment rate, noting that the state’s jobless figures are less than those nationally and reiterating CNBC’s designation of Virginia as the top state for business.

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