RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Former President Barack Obama hit the campaign trail with fellow Democrat Terry McAuliffe in Richmond on Saturday, rallying voters and encouraging them to support the gubernatorial candidate in his tight race against Republican Glenn Youngkin.
Obama pointed to McAuliffe’s experience as governor, telling the crowd outside James Branch Cabell Library at Virginia Commonwealth University that he has already proven his ability to do the job. McAuliffe, Virginia’s governor from 2014-2018, is seeking a second term.
“He walked the walk. Didn’t just talk the talk,” Obama said. “As your governor, Terry kept Virginia on the right track after the Great Recession.”
The former president also took aim at Youngkin, claiming the GOP nominee has been walking a fine line on embracing unfounded claims that the 2020 presidential election results were illegitimate. “Either he [Youngkin] actually believes in the same conspiracy theories that resulted in a mob, or he doesn’t believe it but he is willing to go along with it, to say or do anything to get elected,” Obama told the crowd. “And maybe that’s worse … because that says something about character.”
Obama, arguably the most popular figure in the Democratic Party, stumped for McAuliffe and other Democratic candidates running in the commonwealth in hopes to rally the party’s base and increase turnout with 10 days until Virginia’s Election Day.
Recent polls show Democrats in tight races against their Republican rivals in Virginia, where GOP candidates haven’t won statewide in over a decade.
Whether Obama’s appearance will have an impact on votes in Virginia remains to be seen. Obama carried Virginia twice during his presidential runs, winning by six percent in 2008 and by nearly four percent in 2012.
Those who made it out to Richmond for the rally expressed enthusiasm for Obama’s visit, with some sharing they believe holding the event at VCU will help turnout among younger Virginia voters.
“Every year I have made it a point to turn out for local, state, national elections,” Shannan Clarke, a former educator who attended the rally, told 8News. “And I believe that the more these candidates make their presence known on campuses across the country, you will have your younger voters turning out because those younger voters will think they are important and that their vote counts.”
Several prominent Democrats from Virginia, including Gov. Ralph Northam, and the rest of the country, including Democratic National Committee Chairman Jaime Harrison, were in attendance for Saturday’s event. Organizers of McAuliffe’s rally said 2,000 people were in the crowd for the event.
Youngkin also held a get out the vote rally on Saturday. The GOP nominee’s event was in Henrico County, one of many stops in a bus tour across Virginia during the final stretch of his campaign. Both events had crowds of about 2,000 people, according to campaign organizers.
At his own event, Youngkin told the crowd that the governor’s race is “a toss-up” and called on his supporters to vote and encourage 10 of their friends who didn’t attend to vote as well. He also laid out his day-one plan, repeating his proposal to cut taxes, end the grocery tax and establish 20 new charter schools.
Virginia voters will cast their ballot for governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general in the election. All 100 House of Delegates seats, certain local races and referendums will also be on ballot. The state’s constitution bans sitting governors from running for back-to-back terms.
Early voting started Sept. 17 in Virginia and early in-person voting ends Oct. 30. Election Day is Nov. 2.
Stay with 8News for updates.