The topline numbers were enough to generate tons of headlines: After months of trailing former Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe, Republican nominee Glenn Youngkin had pulled into a dead heat in a new Monmouth University poll.
But dig deeper into the poll and you find even more for Republicans to like.
* 1 in 5 registered voters said that education and schools was the most important issue in deciding their vote. That made it the second most cited issue behind only jobs and the economy (27% most important issue). Youngkin has spent the last weeks of the campaign bashing McAuliffe for saying, in a debate, that he didn’t think “parents should be telling schools what they should teach.”
* Just 43% of voters approve of the job Joe Biden is doing as president while 53% disapprove. Almost 6 in 10 self-identified independents (58%) said they disapprove of how Biden is handling independents.
* Speaking of independents, they have moved away from McAuliffe and to Youngkin over the last month. In a September Monmouth poll, McAuliffe led among independents by a 46%-37% margin. In the new poll? Youngkin leads 48% to 39%.
* Almost half (49%) of Republicans said they were more enthusiastic to vote in this election than in past races. Just 26% of Democrats said the same.
An erosion of independents. An unpopular President. An enthusiasm gap. A losing issue gaining prominence.
That is a LOT of bad news for McAuliffe and Democrats more broadly – suggesting that the race may well be slipping away from them at exactly the wrong time.
The Point: Rightly or wrongly, what happens in Virginia in two weeks’ time will be analyzed as a sign of what’s to come for both parties in 2022. And right now it’s not looking good for Democrats.