Virginia candidates attacked from the start
It was a difficult start for the second and final debate in the high-stakes Virginia governor race between former Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe and Republican businessman Glenn Youngkin on Tuesday night.
With polls showing tight competition barely five weeks before election day, debate has focused on familiar national issues: the pandemic, abortion rights and former President Donald Trump. Candidates also tried to score points on a host of less important topics, including crime rates, Youngkin’s background in private equity and employment law.
Here are the main takeaways from the final governors debate ahead of election day on November 2:
WHO ARE QUICKLY INTENSIFIED
It took Youngkin less than 90 seconds to call McAuliffe a liar.
“During the first debate, he lied to you. That’s what politicians do, ”the Republican candidate said in his opening statement.
The attack set the tone for the debate, with each candidate facing the other personally, though Youngkin was often the aggressor. Youngkin has sometimes stepped into McAuliffe’s shoes.
“I just can’t understand how you can so comfortably lie to everyone,” Youngkin said during an abortion exchange.
McAuliffe retorted, “That’s what you’ve been doing all night, buddy.”
Things got particularly complicated when the candidates talked about the state budget.
“The income and expenses, I know, have been difficult for you. I know they are difficult for you, ”Youngkin said. “Terry, you have no idea what you’re talking about.
McAuliffe has repeatedly seized on Youngkin’s opposition to the mask and vaccine warrants. It’s an issue McAuliffe’s team sees as a political winner, especially as the pandemic remains a serious threat in Virginia and beyond.
Youngkin came prepared with a statement outlining his position – “Everyone should get the vaccine… but I don’t think we should demand it” – but briefly stumbled when moderator Chuck Todd asked if he supported the vaccine. ‘Mandatory vaccines against diseases like measles and mumps, which have been mandatory in American schools for generations.
He eventually said he supported the requirement for measles and mumps vaccines, explaining that more data was available on these inoculations.
McAuliffe described Youngkin’s position as dangerous.
He “says if you don’t want to get it, don’t get it. You can’t be a governor and say things like that, ”McAuliffe accused. “It’s disqualifying.”
TRUMP ON THE NEWSLETTER?
McAuliffe has made several attempts to tie Youngkin to the former president, calling Youngkin a “Trump wannabe.” Youngkin, who was endorsed by Trump, didn’t like it.
“There’s an over / under on how many times you would say Donald Trump,” Youngkin said. “You are running against me. It’s Terry McAuliffe vs. Glenn Youngkin.
He added: “The only person who summons Trump is you.”
Youngkin refused to embrace Trump as warmly as some of his main Republican challengers did in a state where Democrat Joe Biden won Trump by 10 percentage points in 2020. And as he tried to avoid the subject on stage Tuesday, Youngkin made headlines in the dying minutes. debate when asked if he would support Trump if he runs again in the next presidential election.
Initially, Youngkin tried to dodge: “Who knows who will run for president in 2024?
When pressed, he clarified, “If he’s the Republican candidate, I will back him.”
THE FIGHT AGAINST ABORTION HAS ARRIVED IN VIRGINIA
The candidates exchanged particularly heated rhetoric over abortion, which became a central issue after the Supreme Court programmed arguments in a case that could challenge Roe v. Wade.
Youngkin, who played down his anti-abortion policies during the election campaign, confirmed his support for a “pain threshold bill” that would ban most abortions after the 20 week mark. The Republican then turned to his opponent, calling McAuliffe “the most extreme abortion candidate in the country.”
“You want to be the governor of abortion,” Youngkin accused.
The Democrat appeared to welcome the attack.
“I want every woman in Virginia to listen to me carefully. I was a brick wall to protect women’s rights, ”McAuliffe said. He later added, “Women are fed up with people like Glenn Youngkin telling them what to do with their bodies. “
The fight is a likely glimpse into midterm elections across the country. Democrats believe the threat of new abortion restrictions will help rally women behind them. Female voters, especially in the suburbs, played a key role in helping Democrats take control of Congress – and Virginia – in the Trump era.
It remains to be seen whether Democrats will fare as well without Trump as a foil in the Oval Office.
AND THE BASE?
Although there were a few exceptions, Youngkin generally offered potential supporters a moderate mark of conservatism, avoiding venturing too far into many of the cultural war issues popular among the most passionate Republican voters.
He did not ask about transgender children in schools, and he said he would welcome refugees from Afghanistan. When asked how schoolchildren should be made aware of racism, he avoided the term “critical race theory” altogether.
“I think we recognize that America and Virginia have heinous chapters,” said Youngkin, adding, “We don’t need to teach our kids to see everything through the prism of race and then to set them against each other. “
And when the conversation turned to ‘electoral integrity’ – code for Trump’s false claims that widespread voter fraud cost him the 2020 election – Youngkin also refused to embrace his party’s harshest rhetoric , instead trying to put McAuliffe on the defensive.
He accused McAuliffe of never having recognized that former President George W. Bush was legitimately elected. He noted that Florida officials invested in their electoral system after the 2000 recount debacle involving hangings of chads and butterfly ballots., using this example to justify his support for changing Virginia’s law after the 2020 election.
Regarding the loss of Trump, Youngkin said, “I said there was no material fraud. And I believe the election was certified as fair.