By Sarah Rankin, The Associated Press
RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Former President Barack Obama will campaign with fellow Democrat Terry McAuliffe in the final stretch of the Virginia governor’s race.
“The stakes could not be greater,” McAuliffe said, as he announced the news Tuesday morning on MSNBC.
McAuliffe’s race against the GOP nominee, first-time political candidate Glenn Youngkin, is tightening, according to the latest polls. His effort to win a second, nonconsecutive term in office is one of only two regularly scheduled governor’s races in the country this year and is being closely watched for indications of voter sentiment ahead of next year’s midterms.
McAuliffe’s campaign announced that Obama will join him in Richmond on Oct. 23 to mobilize Virginians during early voting, which began weeks ago and runs in person through Oct. 30.
Obama rallied Democrats in Virginia’s capital city in 2017 before Ralph Northam beat Republican gubernatorial nominee Ed Gillespie by nearly 9 percentage points. He’ll follow other high-profile Democrats visiting the commonwealth to support McAuliffe.
First lady Jill Biden is set to visit on Friday. Stacey Abrams, the voting rights activist, grassroots organizer and former Georgia Democratic gubernatorial candidate, will campaign with McAuliffe in Norfolk and northern Virginia on Sunday.
McAuliffe said on “Morning Joe” that Obama would be coming Saturday, in a way that suggested the visit would precede Abrams’ events. His campaign then had to clarify his remarks.
McAuliffe stumped with President Joe Biden in July. A recent poll conducted by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research showed the president’s popularity has slumped after a slew of challenges, and Biden has not announced plans to return.
Maddie Anderson, a spokeswoman for the Republican Governors Association, highlighted remarks McAuliffe made to Politico in July, when he said he’d welcome Biden to visit “every week.”
“McAuliffe and Co have clearly read the polls and asked Joe Biden to get out of their way and are asking every other Democrat superstar to campaign for him instead,” she said in a statement.
Former President Donald Trump has endorsed Youngkin but has not visited Virginia to support the former private equity executive.
McAuliffe, who preceded Northam in office, called Youngkin a “Trump wannabe” on Tuesday and said a win for Youngkin would get Trump “off the mat” and kick off another presidential run in 2024.
“We can’t let it happen,” he said.
Youngkin has said he would vote for Trump in 2024 if Trump is the Republican nominee.
In a written statement, Youngkin campaign spokeswoman Macaulay Porter said voters are rejecting McAuliffe’s platform, “so his response is to bring in more politicians to help draw a crowd larger than twelve people.”
Election Day is Nov. 2, and today is the last day to register to vote.