In the final stretch of Virginia's closely fought gubernatorial race, Republican Glenn Youngkin and his allies believe Democrat Terry McAuliffe, a former Virginia governor, recently handed them "a political gift, big enough to sweep this year's statewide and state legislative elections," The Washington Post's David Weigel reports. That gift: schools. And specifically, they point to a moment in a September debate where McAuliffe, in a discussion about parents accosting school board members about sexual imagery in books, said he doesn't "think parents should be telling schools what they should teach."
"When he said parents can't tell schools what they should be teaching in schools," Youngkin said at a "Parents for Youngkin" rally on Wednesday, "I literally almost fell down." State Sen. Amanda Chase (R) recounted her reaction to a controversial conservative rally for Youngkin and other GOP candidates a few hours later: "I was like, yo, we just won the election!" A Fox News poll Thursday suggests otherwise.
The poll did not find that voters agree with McAuliffe — in fact, 53 percent said parents should tell schools what to teach, while 43 percent disagreed — but McAuliffe still edged out a 2 percentage point lead on handling of schooling, 45 percent to 43 percent. And while McAuliffe had a 5-point lead over Youngkin among all likely voters — 51 percent to 46 percent, within the margin of sampling error — he was up 10 points among parents, 53 percent to 43 percent.
That is not the data point Fox News focused on in its headline — or other poll coverage of the race.
Democrats "argue that Republicans are completely misreading the issue," Weigel reports, noting that Youngkin has been trying to make various aspects of schooling a hot-button issue for the entire campaign, usually without many takers. "They're pitting parents against parents and using our students as pawns," McAuliffe told the Post on Wednesday. "These school board meetings, the visceral, screaming hatred that's coming out — a lot of this has been promulgated by Donald Trump, and a lot of it's been promulgated by Glenn Youngkin."
The Fox News poll was conducted Oct. 10-13 by Beacon Research (D) and Shaw & Co. (R), which jointly interviewed 1,004 Virginia registered voters and 726 likely voters by phone. The margin of sampling error is ±3.5 percentage points for likely voters.