McAuliffe's team announced on Tuesday that former President Obama would campaign with the former governor in the state capital city of Richmond a week from Saturday, on Oct. 23. Even after nearly five years removed from the White House, the former two-term president remains very popular and influential with voters in his own party.
An average of the latest polls in the race indicates that McAuliffe – who's running for his old job – holds a slight, single-digit edge over Republican nominee Glenn Youngkin in a state that President Biden won by 10 points in last year's election and where Republicans haven't secured a statewide contest in a dozen years.
Three weeks ago, the Cook Report, a top nonpartisan political handicapper, changed its ranking of the race from "lean Democratic" to "toss up."
There's a long-running course of voters in the commonwealth defeating the party's gubernatorial nominee that controls the White House. McAuliffe broke with that tradition in 2013 with his election as governor after Obama was reelected. McAuliffe could not run for reelection in 2017 because Virginia governors are barred from serving two straight terms.
The close contest in Virginia – a one-time-key battleground but still competitive state seen as a key bellwether ahead of the 2022 midterm elections – has national Democrats on edge as they defend their razor-thin majorities in the House of Representatives and Senate in next year's contests.
The latest surveys suggest that Republican voters are more driven than their Democratic counterparts. And McAuliffe's putting on a full-court rush to get Democrats to cast ballots in the current early voting period or to go to the polls on Election Day.
While Obama's the biggest name to join McAuliffe in the coming days, the former governor will also campaign with First Lady Jill Biden on Friday in Richmond.
And McAuliffe will team up on the campaign trail this upcoming weekend with voting rights advocate Stacey Abrams, the former Georgia House Democratic leader who in 2018 made history as the first Black female gubernatorial nominee of a major political party.