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Youngkin, McAuliffe to Meet in Final Debate Tuesday Night

Virginia Candidate Forum
Cliff Owen/AP
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FR170079 AP
Virginia gubernatorial candidates, Democrat Terry McAuliffe left, and Republican Glenn Youngkin, talk during the Virginia FREE Leadership Luncheon in McLean, Va., Wednesday, Sept. 1, 2021. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen)

The race for governor is in the spotlight this week, as the two major-party candidates meet for the last time in a televised debate.

Former Governor Terry McAuliffe and Republican Glenn Youngkin will be in Northern Virginia Tuesday evening for the second and final televised debate, a key moment in the campaign as Election Day approaches and early voting has already started.

Stephen Farnsworth at the University of Mary Washington says the debate will be haunted by the specter of former President Donald Trump.

"The challenge for McAuliffe is clearly to paint the Republican nominee, Glenn Youngkin, as Trump like as possible," explains Farnsworth. "And the challenge for Youngkin is to do a two-step that will allow him to seem Trump enough to the Trump supporters so that they turn out but not so Trumpy that he scares suburban voters."

The debate comes at a time when the latest polling shows the race is deadlocked. Quentin Kidd at Christopher Newport University says that might change the dynamics.

"Because the narrative seems to be Youngkin on the ascendancy; McAuliffe perhaps not doing as well as he was doing or was perceived to be doing earlier," Kidd says. "I think you're going to see a more aggressive Terry McAuliffe. And in response to that you might see a more aggressive Glenn Youngkin, so we may have more fireworks in this debate than we had in the last one."

Recent campaigns for governor have featured three debates. But this time the candidates could agree on only two, which means the heat is on for this debate -- the last time for the candidates to take on each other and speak directly to voters.

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

Michael Pope is an author and journalist who lives in Old Town Alexandria.