Former President Barack Obama speaks direct to camera in a new ad for Virginia Democratic gubernatorial nominee Terry McAuliffe, warning voters that their decision will make “a statement about what direction we’re headed in as a country.”
The ad in the notably tight race comes as the latest poll in the contest from Monmouth University finds no clear leader in the race, with McAuliffe and Republican nominee Glenn Youngkin tied at 46% of registered voters.
“Virginia, you have a lot of responsibility this year. Not only are you choosing your next governor, but you’re also making a statement about what direction we’re headed in as a country,” Obama says in the ad. “I know Terry McAuliffe and I can tell you as governor no one worked harder for their state. And I also watched Terry stand strong on the values we all care about: protecting every citizen’s right to vote, fighting climate change, and defending a woman’s right to choose.”
A McAuliffe aide said says the buy behind the ad is “seven figures” and it will run statewide.
The spot comes amid Democratic concerns the base of voters that helped propel President Joe Biden to a 10-point victory over Donald Trump in 2020 is not as motivated to vote in the off-year election.
To combat this apathy, Democrats have turned to well-known figures like Obama, Georgia’s Stacey Abrams and Vice President Kamala Harris to spur Democratic turnout. Obama will rally with McAuliffe on Saturday in the Richmond area, while Harris will stump for the former governor on Thursday in Prince William County.
The Obama ad also highlights how Democrats view the November 2 contest as bigger than just Virginia.
Although the commonwealth has ticked blue in recent years — Virginia last elected a Republican governor in 2009 and has been carried by Democrats in every presidential election since 2004 — history is currently on the side of Republicans. Since the 1970s, the winner of Virginia’s off-year gubernatorial election always came from the party in opposition to the White House, except for 2013 when McAuliffe won his first term just a year after Obama won his second term in the White House.
A loss in Virginia with Biden in the White House would demoralize the party just a year after it defeated Trump and signal a growing unease with Democrats’ leadership in Washington.
Biden has acknowledged that Virginia is a bellwether but cautioned reporters earlier this month against reading too much into a possible loss.
“I think everybody understandably reads the two gubernatorial off-year elections as being a bellwether of what may happen,” Biden told reporters traveling with him in Connecticut on Friday. “Sometimes it’s been right, sometimes it’s been wrong. I think Terry’s going to win — if he doesn’t win, I don’t know how much you read into that, but, you know, I think he’ll win.”
This story has been updated with additional information.
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