Leahy: Virginia’s Statewide Campaigns Close With a Message of Fear

The polling data in Virginia’s gubernatorial race points to a close finish. Pick your pollster and methodology — USA Today/Suffolk UniversityEmerson CollegeWason Center — and the story is the same. We could be in for a photo finish, perhaps on the order of the L. Douglas Wilder-J. Marshall Coleman contest in 1989.

Wilder won — by just 6,741 votes out of more than 1.78 million cast.

We’ll know soon enough if a repeat of that historic contest is in store. But if Tuesday’s results are Wilder-Coleman close, will the losing side accept defeat, congratulate the winner and move on?

The closing arguments the major campaigns are rolling do not fill me with hope about anyone showing grace or humility once the votes are counted.

The reason? Both major party candidates are closing on a base-motivating message: fear.

For the Republicans, it’s a smorgasbord of fears: public schools are cesspools of crime, vice and dangerous books and ideas. So dangerous are these schools that GOP gubernatorial nominee Glenn Youngkin threatened to withhold funding unless districts put cops on campus: “If you are a school board and you refuse to equip your schools with school resource officers to keep our children safe, you will need to find your funding for your school on your own.”

Was Youngkin channeling Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) there? Sure, and likely with the same results (namely, a lot of backpedaling).

Bluster aside, the Republican-fueled bonfire of horribles is intended to stampede the suburban voters back into the GOP column.

As an electoral strategy, it’s cynical to its core. But the polling data seems to show that it may be working, moving just enough suburbanites to make the outcome close — and maybe even deliver the GOP its first statewide win since 2009.

Continue reading here.

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