It’s a challenge Mr. McAuliffe takes seriously.
After scoring an easy victory in the Democratic primary on Tuesday night, Mr McAuliffe – who is seeking to replace Governor Ralph Northam, a Democrat who is constitutionally barred from running for another term – sought to wake his party by warning them that Mr. Youngkin’s ability to pay for itself is a threat that must be taken seriously. “There are 75 million reasons Glenn Youngkin could win,” McAuliffe told supporters, hinting at how much the Republican could spend on the campaign.
Whether Mr Youngkin is able to spend enough money to define himself with voters before Democrats do, and if President Biden’s popularity wanes by November – as was the case with former President Barack Obama in 2009, the last time Republicans won the governorship here – Mr. Youngkin will be positioned to at least shut down the race.
Unlike the last two runs for the governor of Virginia, conservative factions of the GOP and more establishment-aligned are united behind Mr. Youngkin.
“It’s totally winnable for Republicans,” said Jerry Kilgore, former state attorney general and Republican who ran for governor himself. “But if he loses, there will be a lot of depressed people, because there is a lot of optimism right now.”
To win, Mr. Youngkin will need to show Simone Biles footwork when it comes to answering the brand of his party and, in particular, Mr. Trump, the former and potentially future flag bearer.
“I don’t think he’s coming this year,” Mr. Youngkin said in response to a question of whether he wanted Mr. Trump to campaign with him.
Standing outside a country music themed bar in the Tidewater area of the southeastern state where he grew up before accumulating his fortune with the Carlyle Group in Washington, Mr Youngkin was clearly more interested in comparing his lack of political experience with Mr McAuliffe’s decades as a party insider.
And after winning a hotly contested Republican nomination contest on Tuesday, Mr. Youngkin also seemed aware of Mr. Trump’s grip on the party and did not want to offend a party leader notoriously sensitive to slurs.
“I don’t think his schedule is – I think he has his schedule and is willing to go to other places,” Youngkin tried again.