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Abortion, schools take center stage in election ad wars

Former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, Democratic gubernatorial candidate for Virginia for a second term, answers questions from reporters after casting his ballot during early voting at the Fairfax County Government Center October 13, 2021 in Fairfax, Virginia.

Win McNamee | Getty Images

National issues such as abortion and schools have taken center stage in the tight governor’s race in Virginia as the candidates spend millions on television advertising. 

The commonwealth’s competitive race for governor is viewed by many as a harbinger of what’s to come in the 2022 midterms, and the race is already proving to be a testing ground for some of the biggest national issues that could influence next year’s elections.

Former Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe and Republican Glen Youngkin have spent a hefty total of $47 million on campaign ads that tout their candidacy or take jabs at the other for their stances on local and national issues. 

McAuliffe has been outspending his Republican opponent at $25 million to $22 million on TV, radio and online ads, according to data obtained from CNBC from AdImpact. These ads make up over half of McAuliffe’s $44.4 million and Youngkin’s $42.2 million in total campaign spending.

Their most expensive and most aired television ads are about two highly contentious issues sitting at the forefront of national politics, according to AdImpact. This includes abortion, which comes amid Texas’ new law that bans the procedure as early as six weeks into pregnancy, and schools amid national debates on curriculum and mask mandates. 

Abortion rights

School controversies

Another ad of Youngkin uses the same video of McAuliffe from the first gubernatorial debate, calling his stance on parental control “wrong.” It also touts Youngkin’s own efforts, which includes his plan to create 20 “innovation schools” to “empower parents with educational choice.”

“I’ll always stand up for Virginia’s parents,” Youngkin said in the ad. 

The Monmouth University poll shows that 41% of likely voters in Virginia see schools and education as one of the most important issues in deciding their vote for governor. 

In terms of which candidate would handle schools and education better, Youngkin has a narrow one percentage point lead. 

Approximately 39% said Youngkin would handle it better while 38% said McAuliffe would. 

Other fault lines 

Other national and local issues play central roles in both candidate’s television ads. 

For instance, many of Youngkin’s ads either attack McAuliffe for pushing for police reform or Virginia’s high crime rates when he served as governor. And several of McAuliffe’s ads attack Youngkin for opposing vaccine mandates. 

About 25% of McAuliffe’s television ads also link Youngkin to former President Donald Trump, who has endorsed the Republican candidate. The ads focus on their overlapping stances on Covid-19, election integrity and education. 

Overall, roughly 75% of McAuliffe’s television ads include attacks on his GOP opponent. 

Youngkin has a more of a mix of positive and negative ads, including biographical ads that underscore his business-approach to politics due to his 25 years of experience as a former CEO of the Carlyle Group

With Virginia’s Election Day just under two weeks away, both candidates are likely to ratchet up their campaign advertising to motivate their partisan bases.

The Monmouth University poll found the candidate’s neck and neck with support among likely voters identical at 46%. And the disparity in enthusiasm between supporters of Youngkin and McAuliffe has grown to a 23 percentage point gap in the poll, at 49% to 26%.

“The next two weeks will see a lot more mobilization, continual appeals for turnout and nonstop commercial ads from the two candidates,” said Karen Hult, a political science professor at Virginia Tech.

Read More: Abortion, schools take center stage in election ad wars

2021-10-22 15:42:30

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