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McAuliffe busts out the big guns to motivate Black voters, a crucial Democratic constituency

Amid a deadlocked gubernatorial race in Virginia, a crucial statewide contest with plenty of national implications, Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey parachutes into the commonwealth on Wednesday to campaign with former Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe.

Booker, who grabbed national attention during his run for the White House in the 2020 election cycle, becomes the latest high profile Black Democratic politician to join McAuliffe on the campaign trail as the former governor faces off against GOP nominee Glenn Youngkin in a closely watched contest that public opinion polls indicate is all tied up.

Soaring turnout by Black voters helped the Democrats convincingly win back the House of Representatives in the 2018 midterm elections, and fueled now-President Biden’s victory in the 2020 presidential election. 

VIRGINIA GOVERNOR’S RACE DEADLOCKED WITH ONE WEEK UNTIL ELECTION

Democrats are hoping for a repeat performance next week in Virginia, a one-time battleground state that’s trended blue the past decade. Now-President Biden carried Virginia by 10 points last November and Republicans haven’t won statewide in the commonwealth in a dozen years.

McAuliffe, facing what polls indicate is a enthusiasm gap among Democrats, including Black voters who are a key part of the party’s base, is putting on a full court press to break through the perceived complacency.

“We ain’t got time to be tired,” former President Barack Obama emphasized as he campaigned with McAuliffe at a rally Saturday in Richmond. “What is required is sustained effort.”

Former U.S. President Barack Obama speaks during a campaign rally for Virginia Democratic gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe in Richmond, Virginia, U.S. October 23, 2021. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque 

Former U.S. President Barack Obama speaks during a campaign rally for Virginia Democratic gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe in Richmond, Virginia, U.S. October 23, 2021. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque 
(REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque)

The nation’s first Black president, who remains very popular with Democratic voters nearly five years removed from the White House, said he understood voters were worn down from the nation’s divisive polices as well as the strains from the coronavirus, the worst pandemic to strike the globe in a century. But pointing to Virginia’s election, which political observers see as a bellwether ahead of next year’s midterms, when the Democrats will try to hold onto their razor-thin majorities in Congress, Obama urged “don’t sit this one out.”

Democratic strategists are anxious that Biden’s flagging approval ratings, coupled with an inability to date by congressional Democrats to pass a major spending bill or key legislation on voting rights – and other important issues to Black voters – could dampen the party’s turnout in Virginia.

CLICK HERE FOR THE LATEST FOX NEWS REPORTING ON THE VIRGINIA GUBERNATORIAL RACE

Obama was the biggest – but not the only draw – to team up with McAuliffe. 

Vice President Kamala Harris campaigned with McAuliffe last week.

“This race is tight,” the vice president emphasized last week at a rally in the voter rich and heavily diverse and Democratic D.C. suburbs of Northern Virginia. “And we got to make it clear, Virginia, that we’re paying attention. We got to make it clear that we’re not taking anything for granted.”

Harris returns to Virginia on Friday, when she and popular musician Pharrell Williams, a Virginia Beach native, join McAuliffe for a get-out-the-vote rally in neighboring Norfolk. 

And voting rights advocate Stacey Abrams, the former Georgia House Democratic leader who in 2018 made history as the first Black female gubernatorial nominee of a major political party, has hit the Virginia campaign trail twice in recent weeks to energize the Democratic base.

Political activist Stacey Abrams, left, waves to the crowd with Democratic gubernatorial candidate, former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, right, during a rally in Norfolk, Va. (AP Photo/Steve Helber, File)

Political activist Stacey Abrams, left, waves to the crowd with Democratic gubernatorial candidate, former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, right, during a rally in Norfolk, Va. (AP Photo/Steve Helber, File)
(AP Photo/Steve Helber, File)

In addition, the McAuliffe campaign’s held hundreds of “Souls to the Polls” events the past couple of Sundays to bring Black worshipers to early voting stations.

But veteran Virginia based GOP consultant Zack Roday argues that McAuliffe’s push in recent weeks to increase Black voter turnout is an admission of failure. 

“They need to be bailed out and they’re going to a constituency that’s been there for them in the past,” Roday told Fox News. “It’s really an admission of their strategic failure throughout the campaign that they have not been able to build a winning coalition based off of the issue sets that voters care about.”

A USA Today/Suffolk University poll released on Tuesday, which was the fourth straight survey to show Virginia’s gubernatorial race a dead heat, also indicated McAuliffe winning Black voters by an 81%-6% margin.

The survey’s pollster, David Paleologos, told Fox News that come Election Day “if the Black vote is 20% of the total vote or higher, that puts McAuliffe in the driver’s seat. If the Black vote is between 16%-18%, then Youngkin’s poised to win.” According to the poll, Black voters made up 19.6% of those surveyed.

Paul Steinhauser is a politics reporter based in New Hampshire. 

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