“Because my opponent is a Trump wannabe,” Mr. McAuliffe said. “He‘s been endorsed by Donald Trump three times. He said ‘I’m honored to have his endorsement.’ He‘s quoted saying ‘so much of the reason why I’m running is because of Donald Trump.’ That’s his quote, so he‘s the one who’s inserted Donald Trump here.”
Mr. McAuliffe, who served as governor between 2014 and 2018, has issued several ads that compare Mr. Youngkin to Mr. Trump. He made a point to zero-in on the comparison at a July rally he held with President Biden, who said Mr. McAuliffe was running against Mr. Trump.
The attacks coincide with Mr. Trump‘s poor performance in Democratic-trending Virginia in 2016 and 2020.
In 2016, he lost to Democrat Hillary Clinton by roughly 6 percentage points and lost by 10 points to Mr. Biden in 2020.
The Virginia race is tight, with polls showing Mr. McAuliffe slightly leading Mr. Youngkin. An 8News/Emerson College poll that came out Thursday ahead of the debate showed Mr. McAuliffe had 49% support compared to Mr. Youngkin’s 45%.
The poll surveyed 778 likely voters between Sept. 13-14 and had an error margin of 3.4 percentage points.
Virginia law bars governors from serving consecutive terms, but not non-consecutive ones.
Election Day is Nov. 2, but early voting begins Friday.