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Democrats and Republicans each have one big advantage in close Virginia race

First Read is your briefing from "Meet the Press" and the NBC Political Unit on the day's most important political stories and why they matter.
Image: Glenn Youngkin
Virginia Republican gubernatorial candidate Glenn Youngkin gives remarks at a campaign rally at the Danville Community Market on Oct. 26, 2021 in Danville, Va.Anna Moneymaker / Getty Images

WASHINGTON — The latest poll in Virginia — from the Wason Center at Christopher Newport University — confirms what we already know about next week’s race for governor: It’s neck and neck.

In the poll, 49 percent of likely voters are backing Democrat Terry McAuliffe, versus 48 percent for Republican Glenn Youngkin, well within the survey’s margin of error.

And in a tight race, both McAuliffe and Youngkin have one big advantage that can put them over the top in a contest that could be decided by just thousands of voters.

For McAuliffe, that edge has been the state’s incredibly long early-voting period, which began back on Sept. 17.

In a state where Biden voters outnumber Trump voters by 450,000 Virginians, having nearly two months to know which voters have already cast ballots — and which ones haven’t — is a big asset for Democrats and the McAuliffe campaign.

They can go door to door, especially in Democratic neighborhoods, and concentrate on those who haven’t yet voted. All in a state that has been reliably Democratic going back to 2005.

Also look at McAuliffe’s latest closing TV ad, which focuses on Trump, Charlottesville and Jan. 6.

For Youngkin, his big potential advantage is left-leaning third-party candidate Princess Blanding, who sits at 1 percent in that Wason Center poll.

The potential 30,000 or so votes she gets could end up deciding who wins and loses in this close race. (Blanding, who is campaigning on racial justice as the nominee of the Liberation Party, is unlikely to take votes away from Youngkin and the GOP.)

And remember, back in 2013, Terry McAuliffe won Virginia’s gubernatorial contest by some 50,000 votes — when the conservative-leaning Libertarian nominee Robert Sarvis got 146,000 votes.

When it’s close, everything matters.

Biden stumped for McAuliffe, while Youngkin hit Danville

Meanwhile, President Biden campaigned for McAuliffe last night in deep-blue Arlington, Va., where he tried to link Youngkin to Trump.

"Terry's opponent not only embraces someone with such lack of character, he endorses Donald Trump's bad ideas and bad record," Biden said. "Today's Republican Party nationally is for nothing."

More Biden: "He’s willing to pledge his loyalty to Trump in private, why not in public?" Biden asked. "What’s he trying to hide? Is there a problem with Trump being here?" (Just asking: Who was helping who with last night’s event — Biden helping McAuliffe on a Tuesday night in Arlington, or McAuliffe helping Biden do an event after past ones by former President Barack Obama, Vice President Kamala Harris and voting rights activist Stacey Abrams?)

As for Youngkin, he held a rally last night in Danville, Va., where leaned into Critical Race Theory, per NBC’s Gary Grumbach.

“We will teach accelerated math in our schools, we will award advanced diplomas, we will teach all history — the good and the bad — all of it,” he said. “But what we will not do — we will not teach our children to view everything through a lens of race. We won’t.”

Tweet of the day

Data Download: The numbers you need to know today

58 percent: The drop in new Covid-19 cases since last month’s Delta-variant surge, per a Washington Post analysis.

45,671,667: The number of confirmed cases of the coronavirus in the United States, per the most recent data from NBC News and health officials. (That’s 82,816 more since yesterday morning.)

743,224: The number of deaths in the United States from the virus so far, per the most recent data from NBC News. (That’s 1,779 more since yesterday morning.)

415,012,026: The number of total vaccine doses administered in the U.S., per the CDC. (That’s 709,834 more since yesterday morning.)

13,753,793: The number of booster vaccine doses administered in the U.S., per the CDC. (That’s 491,075 more since yesterday morning.)

57.5 percent: The share of all Americans who are fully vaccinated, per the CDC.

69 percent: The share of all Americans 18-years and older who are fully vaccinated, per the CDC.

Talking policy with Benjy: How the new billionaires tax would work

Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., is debuting his much-awaited “Billionaires Income Tax” today amid cautious optimism among Democrats that the Senate’s centrists will back the proposal.

It has yet to be examined by congressional scorekeepers, but aides estimated it would raise “several hundred billion dollars” from roughly 700 total taxpayers — a testament to the sheer amount of wealth concentrated at the top of the economy.

Despite being sometimes linked to Elizabeth Warren’s “wealth tax,” the two proposals are very different. The Wyden plan only targets gains derived from wealth. Warren’s plan would have taxed the underlying wealth itself, regardless of whether the assets gained value.

Here’s how it would work: Starting in 2022, people with either $1 billion in assets or $100 million in income over a three-year period would have to pay ordinary capital gains taxes on their accumulated stock gains, even if they hadn’t sold their shares. For Jeff Bezos or Elon Musk, whose wealth is overwhelmingly tied to their company’s stock, this could mean triggering taxes on hundreds of billions of dollars in assets at once. They’d have five years to pay the initial bill.

After the initial tax payment, the new “mark to market” system would require billionaires to pay taxes on their stock gains each year, with the ability to deduct any losses forward and backwards.

What about assets that aren’t stocks, like private companies, real estates, yachts, or NFTs? The tax wouldn’t kick in each year, since valuing them would be too difficult. Instead, they’d pay their usual taxes when they sold the assets, but with an additional interest payment on top designed to match the accrued annual billionaires tax.

Billionaires could also designate up to $1 billion as an untradeable asset that does not trigger the tax — to prevent them from having to break up a company they founded when they enter the taxpayer club. There are some additional rules to try to address tax avoidance strategies like trusts and passthrough businesses.

The tax is still a long way from being approved. House leaders, in particular, prefer a less complex tax option. Axios is reporting that Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.V., has told colleagues he has concerns about the billionaires tax. And there worries the Supreme Court could strike it down for being unconstitutional.

What the tax represents politically may be as important as how much it raises. When we looked at the White House’s initial proposed pay-fors in the spring, we wrote that the theme was “Capital punishment.” Rather than taxing merely well-off earners like doctors and lawyers (who might even get a tax cut from BBB), the plans were fixated on ultra-rich investors. The administration’s top concern seemed to be interrupting a spiral of wealth inequality in which billionaires accrued huge gains in the stock market over a lifetime and then transferred the assets to their heirs without ever paying taxes.

Then Congress got a hold of Biden’s plans and all of these proposals seemed to fall away. Big increase in capital gains tax? Couldn’t get past moderates. Make the estate tax apply to multi-million dollar stock gains? Killed by the farm lobby. The top 0.1 percent seemed to be winning every battle.

But a billionaires income tax would be by far the most direct, easy to explain, and likely hard to dodge policy on the entire menu related to this type of inequality. Politically, it would enable Democrats to point to whatever benefits are in the bill and directly link them to just a handful of the richest people in America paying a higher rate. That conceptual leap may end up more of a BFD than the Democrats scrambling to plug a revenue hole even realize right now.

ICYMI: What else is happening in the world

Democrats are racing to finish their social safety net bill, but key disputes persist.

An FDA advisory panel recommends the Pfizer Covid vaccine for children 5 to 11, one key step closer to emergency authorization.

Hours after a Brazilian Senate committee recommended charging President Jair Bolsonaro over the government’s handling of the Covid-19 pandemic, former President Trump endorsed his re-election.

The Senate confirmed Cindy McCain, as well as former Sens. Jeff Flake and Tom Udall, to top diplomatic posts.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has officially endorsed Georgia Republican Hershel Walker despite early concerns from some Republicans about his candidacy.