Planned Obama appearance points to Democratic concerns about Virginia


Democrat Terry McAuliffe's announcement Tuesday that former President Obama will join him next week on the campaign trail is a reflection of the rising fears among Democrats that they are in danger of losing Virginia's gubernatorial contest.

Concerned about the chances that Republican Glenn Youngkin could score an upset in the race, Democrats have rolled out their A-listers in recent weeks. In addition to Obama, who will join McAuliffe on Oct. 23, the White House announced on Monday that Jill Biden will stump in the state. Stacey Abrams, the former Georgia Democratic gubernatorial candidate who has become one of the biggest names in the party, will also hit the campaign trail for McAuliffe, and Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms will campaign with him on Sunday in Richmond.

“Of course there’s a growing fear that we’ll lose this race and if we lost it would have huge ramifications,” said one Democratic strategist. “It would be a huge embarrassment for Democrats.”

The Obama and Abrams appearances particularly show the campaign is aiming to drive turnout by speaking directly to Black voters, strategists say.

“Both Stacey and Barack Obama, not only are they popular among African American voters, they’re popular among key constituencies within the African American vote and that’s Black women and men and young voters,” said Democratic strategist Antjuan Seawright. “Without those constituencies within the Black community, you cannot get what you need in terms of maximum turnout.”

The race has become a test case for President Biden as the White House can check the temperature of voters in the key swing state. But it has taken on increased importance as former President Trump considers a 2024 race.

“If Youngkin wins in Virginia, it increases the likelihood that Trump runs in 2024,” said Democratic strategist Jesse Ferguson, who served as a spokesman on Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign. “These folks campaigning for Terry McAuliffe help crystallize the choice for voters in an election that’s increasingly about whether to go back to Trump-style leadership or not.”

Ferguson added that Democratic enthusiasm in the race is growing. “As the race has come into view for people, the enthusiasm gap has closed."

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