Democrat Ralph Northam is leading most polls of the Virginia governor’s race. He has millions more to spend in the closing weeks of the race than Ed Gillespie, the Republican nominee. And he’s aired more television ads than Gillespie over the last month.
But despite all of that, Democrats are growing increasingly anxious about the too-close-to-call campaign. While Northam has held leads ranging from a few points to double digits in most polls, the first survey in months showing Gillespie with a 1-point edge came out just weeks before Election Day — and in any case, after overconfidence in 2016, almost no polling lead could relieve Democratic worrying. Some in Northam’s party are concerned about his campaign’s decision to outsource its digital advertising to outside groups. And others were dismayed to see the campaign leave the party’s black lieutenant gubernatorial nominee off some fliers distributed by a union.
Democrats are pouring star power into the race to give Northam a late boost, with former President Barack Obama set to campaign for the lieutenant governor on Thursday, following a weekend appearance by former Vice President Joe Biden. They hope that Obama’s appearance will electrify the voters that helped him carry Virginia twice, turning it from a state where Democrats occasionally enjoyed victories to one where they feel the weight of expectations, especially now as the party seeks to rebuild after President Donald Trump’s election.
“People’s anxiety comes from the fact that the Democratic coalition doesn’t always show up in these off-year elections, and there’s an erosion of confidence in polling,” said former Rep. Tom Perriello, who lost to Northam in the Democratic primary in June. He described the mood in the party as “anxious optimism.”