For a man whose campaign for Virginia governor is based on painting his Republican opponent as “
is now sounding pretty Trumpy himself.
This weekend Mr. McAuliffe appeared with
in Charlottesville to rally the troops. Though Ms. Abrams famously lost her own race for governor (of Georgia in 2018), she continues to insist it was stolen from her. On Sunday Mr. McAuliffe went full steal:
“She would be the governor of Georgia today had the governor of Georgia not disenfranchised 1.4 million Georgia voters before the election,” he said. “That’s what happened to Stacey Abrams. They took the votes away.”
It makes for a striking contrast. The three most recent polls show the Virginia Democrat in a dead heat with GOP rival Glenn Youngkin, so Mr. McAuliffe may well win. But in these final days, he’s not coming across as a winner.
Mr. Youngkin, by contrast, is rolling with the punches. After
delivered a withering speech Saturday accusing him of indulging in “lies and conspiracy theories,” Mr. Youngkin trolled the former president with a funny tweet showing himself on a basketball court sinking a 3-pointer: “Hey @BarackObama, I hear you’re in town trying to bail out @TerryMcAuliffe’s campaign. If you’re up for a game, I’m ready!”
So Mr. McAuliffe may have reason to be rattled. Much of his trouble with constituencies he should be winning stems from a debate last month in which he declared, “I don’t think parents should be telling schools what they should teach.”
The remark was great campaign fodder, and Team Youngkin has used it to full advantage. But it’s also been amplified by school associations and officials behaving badly. On Friday, the National School Boards Association apologized for a now-infamous Sept. 29 letter to Joe Biden suggesting that disruptions and threats at school-board meetings might be “a form of domestic terrorism” to be investigated under the Patriot Act. As the NSBA apology abjectly noted, there was “no justification for some of the language included in the letter.”
Plainly it had blown up on them. In Virginia in particular, school moms responded with T-shirts proclaiming “Parents are not domestic terrorists” and placards saying “Moms v. FBI??” Some of these moms, working through Parents Defending Education, unearthed an email from an NSBA executive confirming that the group had also been “in talks over the last several weeks with the White House staff” about what might be included in their letter.
Even worse for Mr. McAuliffe, at just about the same time, news radio station WTOP reported a separate email from the schools superintendent for Loudoun County,
informing school-board members that police were investigating a ninth-grade girl’s report she’d been sexually assaulted in a school bathroom. The email was sent May 28, the day the incident was reported. Yet on June 22 Mr. Ziegler told a meeting of the school board, “We don’t have any records of assaults occurring in our restrooms.” At that same meeting, the father of the alleged victim was arrested during an argument with a woman he says was telling him his daughter’s assault never happened.
In August this same dad,
was tried for disorderly conduct and resisting arrest. Commonwealth Attorney
made the decision to prosecute these two misdemeanors herself. Though she argued for jail time, Mr. Smith received a 10-day suspended sentence. In 2019 Mr. McAuliffe endorsed Ms. Biberaj and helped her raise money.
“What’s going on in places like northern Virginia is an organic, grass-roots revolution of mama bears who are standing up to protect our cubs,” says Asra Nomani, vice president of Parents Defending Education. “This has nothing to do with Donald Trump, who is not on the ticket.”
Unfortunately for Mr. McAuliffe, education isn’t his only worry.
Virginia’s only African-American governor (1990-94), slammed Vice President
for a video endorsing Mr. McAuliffe that was played Sunday in black churches. Not only did Mr. Wilder question the legality of such campaigning, he wondered why African-Americans should support Mr. McAuliffe at all.
“What reasons do they have to turn out?” he asked in an interview with the Washington Examiner. Not what Mr. McAuliffe wants to hear when he needs black votes.
Finally, there is the raging dumpster fire that is Mr. Biden’s plunging approval ratings. On June 8, the day Mr. McAuliffe won the Democratic nomination, the RealClearPolitics polling average showed that voters approved of President Biden’s performance by 53.6% to 44.4%. Today the numbers have flipped. As Mr. McAuliffe admitted to supporters, “the president is unpopular today” in Virginia.
In 2020 Mr. Biden won Virginia by 10 points in good part because he won the suburbs. But if Terry McAuliffe loses next week, it will be because many of those same suburban moms and dads were turned off by a candidate who answers their concerns about their children’s schools by shouting “Donald Trump!”
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