Former President Barack Obama will join a rally for Terry McAuliffe next week, another sign of the urgency national Democrats feel in Virginia's gubernatorial race.
McAuliffe announced Obama's visit — scheduled for Saturday, Oct. 23, in Richmond — during an appearance Tuesday on MSNBC's "Morning Joe."
"There's going to be a lot of excitement," McAuliffe said. "The stakes are so huge. People don't understand. They come out in presidential years, but they have to come out in this off-year."
Virginia holds its election for governor every four years in the year after a presidential election, making the contest both a referendum on the party in the White House and a bellwether for the following year's midterm races. McAuliffe served as governor from 2014 to 2018, but state law prohibits consecutive terms.
The race is shaping up to be highly competitive. A poll last week from Christopher Newport University placed McAuliffe at 49 percent and Republican Glenn Youngkin at 44 percent, within the 4.2 point margin of error. The same poll in late August found McAuliffe with a 9-point lead.
Obama's will be the latest in a string of high-profile Democratic assists for McAuliffe. First lady Jill Biden will campaign with McAuliffe on Friday in Henrico County. And Stacey Abrams, a former state legislator in Georgia who became a national figure after losing a close race for governor in 2018, is expected to appear with McAuliffe on Sunday in Norfolk.
President Joe Biden campaigned with McAuliffe in July, but McAuliffe has since acknowledged the president's sagging poll numbers. McAuliffe also has attempted to brand Youngkin as a clone of former President Donald Trump, who has endorsed the Republican nominee and remains a polarizing figure.
"If I were not to win this, this would be as I say the comeback of Donald Trump," McAuliffe said Tuesday. "This would lift him off the mat. He would use this the launchpad to campaign in 2022, and then set him up for [running for president again in] 2024."
Youngkin spokesperson Macaulay Porter said McAuliffe's reliance on prominent Democratic surrogates is a sign that he's "scared" of where the race stands and a gambit to boost his crowds in the closing weeks.
"Glenn Youngkin is an outsider focused on delivering for the people of Virginia and making the state the best place to live, work, and raise a family," Porter said.