Obama, Pence and other big names to stump for candidates in Virginia

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — With just 26 days until the General Election, some big names from both parties are making their way to Virginia.

A recent poll by Christopher Newport University found that just six percent of likely voters are still undecided.

The upcoming visits are not necessarily to draw in new supporters, according to political analyst Richard Meagher.

Instead, they’ll work to excite existing supporters and draw them to the polls Nov. 7 as turnout in non-presidential election years can be lacking.

On Thursday, Democrat Ralph Northam’s campaign announced former President Barack Obama will be in Richmond Oct. 19 for a rally.

Image courtesy of KNWA

“They’re bringing out all the stops,” said Meagher. “I mean, Obama is the biggest gun.”

This will be Obama’s first public campaign event since he left the White House.

Ahmet Davutoglu, Joe Biden
(Murad Sezer/Pool Photo via AP)

The announcement came less than a week after President Donald Trump tweeted his support for the Republican in the race to his more than 40 million followers.

“Ralph Northam, who is running for Governor of Virginia, is fighting for the violent MS-13 killer gangs & sanctuary cities,” the tweet read. “Vote Ed Gillespie!”

Former Vice President Joe Biden will appear with Northam at a workforce development roundtable in Reston Saturday morning.

Mike Pence. (AP file photo)

The same day, current Vice President Mike Pence will campaign with Gillespie in Abingdon. He will also make the trip to support two other Republican candidates — Jill Vogel, who is the nominee for lieutenant governor, and John Adams, the GOP’s pick for attorney general.

Former President George W. Bush will also be fundraising for Gillespie on Monday. Gillespie is a former counselor to Bush.

George W. Bush, Jeb Bush
(AP Photo/Ron Edmonds, File)

Whether Trump turns his tweet into an actual visit to the commonwealth is still unknown.

Meagher said Gillespie’s campaign will have to weigh its options. Would a visit by the often polarizing president help or hinder his chances?

“This has been the whole program for Gillespie during his entire campaign. How much does he embrace Trump? How much does he distance himself from him?” said Meagher. “Trump’s presence in Virginia over the next few weeks would make it impossible for Gillespie to distance himself. Either he’s in or he’s out.”

It’s no surprise Virginia is getting national attention. It was expected from the very beginning of the race.

“The eyes of the country are on Virginia because they want to know how politics works now in the post-Trump era,” he said.

This is the first off-year election between Trump’s win and the congressional elections next year.

New Jersey is the only other state electing a new governor in November.

That means a lot of money has been filtering into the commonwealth.

According to the Virginia Public Access Project, about $7 million has been donated to campaigns by people in Virginia. Another $7.6 million has come in from outside groups.

While that was expected, Meagher said voter turnout is still the big unknown with less than a month to go.

“If the electorate in Virginia matches last year’s presidential, it’s a huge win for Northam — easy,” he said.

But he said, traditionally, Republicans have had stronger turnout in off years like this one.

“So we have to try to guess — how many Democrats will turn out, how many Republicans?”

Meagher said the Virginia race is also shaping up to tell us something about national politics, too.

He said Obama coming out of “semi-retirement” to stump for Northam could be a sign of what’s to come for the former president.

“It’s the first real big step he’s taking to return to Democratic politics,” he said. “It suggests a number of things about next year’s congressional races and how Obama might be deployed by the Democratic Party.”

The election is Nov. 7. The last day to register to vote is Oct. 16.

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