IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Turnout in Virginia next week will be lower than 2020 — but by how much?

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: Terry McAuliffe
Terry McAuliffe welcomes former U.S. President Barack Obama during his campaign rally in Richmond, Va., on Oct. 23, 2021.Kevin Lamarque / Reuters

WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden tonight stumps for Democrat Terry McAuliffe in Virginia’s tight race for governor — and it comes after previous campaign appearances by former President Barack Obama, Vice President Kamala Harris and voting rights activist Stacey Abrams.

So if you don’t think this election comes down to turnout, especially with polls showing that Republican voters are more enthusiastic than Democrats, then think again.

Turnout for this race for governor has always been lower than what the presidential contest had the previous year.


  • Presidential: 3.72 million total votes cast
  • Governor: 1.99 million (47 percent decline from ’08)


  • Presidential: 3.86 million
  • Governor: 2.24 million (42 percent decline from ’12)


  • Presidential: 3.98 million
  • Governor: 2.61 million (34 percent decline from ’16)


  • Presidential: 4.46 million
  • Governor: ???

But per our colleague, Ed Demaria, Democrats have recently performed better when turnout doesn’t drop as low.

Democrats’ largest recent victory in this gubernatorial race (2017 when Ralph Northam won by 9 points) took place when turnout had declined the least from the previous presidential election (34 percent drop).

And Republicans’ largest victory (2009 when Bob McDonnell won by 17 points) came when turnout had declined the most from the most recent presidential (47 percent decrease).

Tweet of the day

Chipping away

As for the budget talks on Capitol Hill, it’s déjà vu — starring Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.V.

“Paid family leave, one of the hallmarks of President Joe Biden's social safety net agenda, is in jeopardy of being pared once again or even cut from a major spending bill over a lack of support from Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va.,” NBC’s Ali Vitali, Leigh Ann Caldwell, Frank Thorp V and Lauren Egan write.

“Manchin, one of two Senate Democrats who have chipped away at Biden's ‘Build Back Better’ proposal, is against including four weeks of paid family and medical leave, said two sources familiar with the negotiations. The provision was recently presented as a compromise to the 12 weeks Biden initially proposed.”

More: “Manchin is also souring on Medicare vouchers to help cover annual dental costs, as well as a push to expand Medicaid in Republican-led states that have not expanded coverage. Biden's original proposal called for broadening Medicare coverage to include dental care.”

Data Download: The numbers you need to know today

41 percent: President Biden’s Virginia approval rating in the new USA Today/Suffolk University poll, which shows the McAuliffe-Youngkin race virtually tied.

700,000: Goldman Sachs’ estimate for how many foreign workers short the American economy is as the pandemic has snarled immigration.

$2.8 billion: How much of the Emergency Rental Assistance Program was doled out in September, as less than a quarter of the almost $47 billion allocated by Congress has been spent.

45,588,851: 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 110,742 more since yesterday morning.)

741,445: The number of deaths in the United States from the virus so far, per the most recent data from NBC News. (That’s 1,530 more since yesterday morning.)

414,302,192: The number of total vaccine doses administered in the U.S., per the CDC. (That’s 656,714 more since yesterday morning.)

13,262,718: The number of booster vaccine doses administered in the U.S., per the CDC. (That’s 374,492 more since yesterday morning.)

57.4 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.

Blowup over “Beloved”

Back to Virginia’s race for governor, which is now featuring a blowup over a Toni Morrison novel.

“A Pulitzer Prize-winning novel from 1987 has suddenly become the hottest topic in the Virginia governor’s race, as Republican Glenn Youngkin charged that Democrat Terry McAuliffe blocked parents from protecting their children from explicit classroom material, while McAuliffe responded by raising the specter of book-banning,” the Washington Post reports.

“With only a week to go until Election Day, Youngkin released an ad Monday featuring Fairfax County resident Laura Murphy, who waged a battle against ‘Beloved’ in schools beginning in 2013 after her son — a high school senior at the time — said it gave him nightmares while reading it for an advanced placement literature class.”

“Murphy eventually took her fight to the Republican-led General Assembly, which in 2016 passed a bill with bipartisan support to give parents the right to opt their children out of sexually explicit reading assignments. At the time, about half of Virginia school districts already followed that practice, but the bill would have enshrined that in state law. The ‘Beloved bill,’ as it was known, would have made Virginia the first state in the nation to give parents that opt-out power. McAuliffe vetoed it as well as a similar bill in 2017.”

ICYMI: What else is happening in the world

Some federal health advisers are hesitant over whether the general population needs Covid-19 booster shots.

President Biden rejects former President Trump's latest claim of executive privilege over Jan. 6 documents

Minneapolis residents will vote next week on a ballot measure on whether to replace the police department.

After initially raising concerns amid reports on past domestic violence allegations against Georgia Republican Herschel Walker, it looks like the GOP establishment is fine with his Senate bid.