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Northam Holds Slight Edge Over Gillespie Ahead of Prime-Time Debate

AP Photo / Steve Helber

Virginia’s two major party candidates will go head to head Tuesday night in a prime-time face off, a televised debate that indicates the official start of the hottest part of campaign season. Libertarian candidate Cliff Hyra will not be participating in the debate, but he will be on the ballot in every jurisdiction.

Just ahead of the high-stakes debate in Northern Virginia this week, the University of Mary Washington is releasing a new poll that has Democrat Ralph Northam ahead of Republican Ed Gillespie — but not by much, the lead is within the margin of error.

“I think the main thing to see in this poll is the challenge that both candidates face in the age of President Trump.”

That’s Stephen Farnsworth at the University of Mary Washington.

“You see a lot of undecided voters, which means both campaigns have a lot of work to do between now and November.”

Quentin Kidd at Christopher Newport University says both of these candidates have a similar challenge, motivate their supporters and demoralize the opposition while still trying to appeal to independents.

“The critiques that one is leveling at the other that aren’t policy oriented are designed to undermine the opponent’s base but also energize their own base.”

Kidd says watch for Northam to criticize Gillespie as a Washington lobbyist. And look for Gillespie to attack Northam as someone who doesn’t show up to meetings and straddles the fence on the controversial pipeline issue.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association

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