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What Virginia’s election means for entire country

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The stand-off in Virginia’s gubernatorial race takes a political temperature of the nation, and forecasts next year’s midterm election. Former Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe and first-time Republican candidate Glenn Youngkin are neck-to-neck in early votes amid polarization of mask mandates and critical race theory in schools. 

Since Sep. 17, more than 1.2 million ballots have been cast in person and by mail — a record breaking turnout for early voting. With McAuliffe in the lead at 53%, his opponent has made Election Day the forefront of the nation in his campaign against abortion, transgender protections, climate change, and his allegations of election-fraud. 

While Democrats had an early advantage over the election, trends have shown the race may be closer than anticipated. Recent studies cite voter fatigue, lack of Democratic party support, and Youngkin’s mobilization of right-wing supporters as indicators. 

“It could be a very late election night… or week,” said Dr. Harry Wilson, a senior political analyst of the Roanoke College Poll. “Youngkin leads among Independents, so McAuliffe needs to turn out more Democrats. Virginia Democrats have done that for several elections in a row, but the significant enthusiasm gap suggests they may not be able to do it in 2021.”

In a poll conducted by Roanoke College, the state’s Republicans are 49% more enthusiastic about voting compared to 32% of Democrats, with the most received bipartisan support for economy and education. 

McAuliffe, who aimed to re-energize voters on Sunday, made special appearances with President Joe Biden, former President Barack Obama, and even celebrity profiles like Pharrell Williams and Dave Matthews. 

But patterns point to a greater Republican poll turnout on Tuesday following false accusations of mail-in vote election-fraud made by former President Donald Trump. 

Contrarily, Youngkin has sought to distance himself from the dogma of his base party and former president, even declining an invitation to Trump’s tele-rally in support of the election campaign. 

Still, many critics worry whether Youngkin taking aim at school boards and mask mandates will shape the GOP’s political agenda to win back the House of Representatives and Senate majorities in 2022.

The writer is a student in the School of Global Journalism and Communication