The voters take over Tuesday and decide the outcome of one of the most intense and closely-watched governor’s race in Virginia history.
It’s a race with national implications as both Democrat Terry McAuliffe and Republican Ken Cuccinelli focused on issues ranging from Obamacare, gun control and tea party extremism in the closing days.
If the polls are correct, McAuliffe will win along with Lt. Gov. Democratic candidate Ralph Northam but the final outcome depends a lot on turnout. The lower the turnout, the better the odds for Cuccinelli because in low turnout races the extremists from the right will account for a higher percentage of the vote.
Both sides have extensive get-out-the-vote efforts with McAuliffe concentrating on Northern Virginia, the Tidewater areas and Richmond. Cuccinelli’s support is heaviest in conservative Southwestern Virginia where right-wing extremism is high but the number available voters is low.
Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics, says Virginia overall is becoming increasingly moderate and that hurts Cuccinelli because of his strong conservative stands on abortion and social issues.
Sabato late last week rated McAuliffe as the “solid favorite” to win and also predicted an easy victory for Lt. Gov. Democratic candidate Ralph Northam over right-wing Republican idealogue E.W. Jackson and a possible victory for Democrat Mark Herring over Republican Mark Obenshain in the attorney general’s race. A Democratic sweep of the state’s top three races would be historical in the Commonwealth.
McAuliffe also might have some coattails to help Democrats in races for the General Assembly.
The governor’s race has created a pattern of non-endorsement by some Virginia newspapers, including The Ronaoke Times, Richmond Times-Disptach and Charlottesville Daily Progress.
“None of the three candidates deserves an endorsement in this year’s gubernatorial contest.,” the Times said in an editorial last week.
Virginia polls open at 6 a.m. and stay open for 13 hours, closing at 7 p.m.