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Experts predict narrow victory in Virginia for Gov. Terry McAuliffe

Democrats will need to be ready in November 2022, professor says

EVANSTON, Ill. --- A highly competitive gubernatorial election is underway in Virginia, with intense competition between the Democratic incumbent Terry McAuliffe and his Republican challenger Glenn Youngkin. President Biden stumped for McAuliffe last week in Arlington, and former President Donald Trump is holding a pro-Youngkin tele-rally today.

Northwestern University political science professors provide their predictions on the outcome, and what is at stake for the 2022 midterm elections.

Alvin B. Tillery Jr. is an associate professor of political science and director of the Center for the Study of Diversity and Democracy. His research focuses on American political development, racial and ethnic politics and media and politics. He can be reached at

Quote from Professor Tillery
“The race for control of the governor’s mansion in Virginia has tightened considerably in recent weeks. Given the strength of early turnout for the Democrats, and the propensity of likely voter models to undercount minority voters, I predict that Terry McAuliffe will win a narrow victory on Tuesday. For many in the Democratic Party’s establishment, the tightness of this race will be seen as an ominous sign for the 2022 midterms. In my view, win or lose, there is no need for much hand-wringing about next year, as it is very likely that the Republicans will be able to gerrymander and suppress their way back into power regardless of the plays that Democrats decide to run next fall.

“What McAuliffe’s vulnerability does show is that the Republicans have been somewhat successful ginning up anxiety and racial animus among white voters with their Critical Race Theory hoaxes in northern Virginia. What this race shows is that Democrats will need to be ready with a messaging campaign that responds to this nonsense next November or they will lose some of the ground that they gained in the suburbs in 2020. This should not be hard to do but the Democrats seem to have a bad habit of believing that their policy positions and spending plans can counter cut through the noise of Republican disinformation campaigns.” 

Jaime Dominguez is an associate professor of instruction in the department of political science specializing in American politics. He is the principal architect of the Chicago Democracy Project (CDP) and a faculty affiliate with the American Politics Workshop and the Latino/a Studies Program at Northwestern. He can be reached at

Quote from Professor Dominguez
“The Virginia gubernatorial race will be a reflection of what to expect in next year’s midterms. The fact that Republican candidate Glenn Youngkin is within striking distance in a state that is more blue on the presidential level, and where Biden won by 10 points, speaks to the electoral fragility of the Democratic Party. A loss by McAuliffe will be a huge blow and show that Democratic voters are not energized, and that Democrats will surely lose the House in 2022. Even bringing in the heavy hitters like former president Barack Obama seems not to be working in get-out-the-vote efforts for McAuliffe. Also at stake is how down-ballot candidates in 2022 will campaign because this race is demonstrating that tying Republicans to Trump and using him as a cudgel is not going to result in Democrats winning more seats.”