Polling stations are closed in Virginia, where voters will decide the neck-and-neck gubernatorial race Tuesday between Democrat Terry McAuliffe and Republican Glenn Youngkin.
The race was too early to call when polling stations closed, according to NBC News.
Both parties are watching excitedly as the results flow in from across the Commonwealth, eager for clues about the political temperature that will inform their campaigns next year for Congress, the Senate and 36 other governors’ palaces. It is the first nationwide parliamentary election for Joe Biden’s presidency.
Meanwhile, voters in New York City and New Jersey are also present at the ballot box, with Democrats Eric Adams and Gov. Phil Murphy, respectively, strongly in favor of winning.
Follow live results in Virginia, New Jersey, Ohio and Florida on NBCNews.com.
There are also two special congressional elections in Ohio, though none of them are expected to turn to the other party, and a primary election in the special congressional election in Florida.
Youngkin, a former private equity director making his first election to the post, hopes a stream of rural support and a return to the GOP from some suburbs will signal the beginning of a red wave to bring his party back to power in Washington.
McAuliffe, a former governor seeking to regain office, hopes to keep the state blue with large turnout in northern Virginia’s sprawling suburbs, the Richmond area and the heavily African-American Hampton Roads region.
Early NBC News exit polls showed the economy was the most important issue for Virginia voters – they were fairly evenly divided on which candidate they trusted the most to deal with the problem – followed by education, taxes, Covid and abortion, in that order. Voters said they relied more on McAuliffe to deal with the pandemic, but Youngkin more on crime.
Youngkin made education the centerpiece of his campaign, exploiting parental frustration over school closures and fears of alleged anti-white bias in the curriculum.
Excited by conservative alarmism about critical race theory, a until recently obscure academic discipline mostly taught in universities, Republicans say the issue may be central to future campaigns across the country.
Asked how much to say parents should have in what their children’s school teaches, McAuliffe voters mostly said “not much,” while Youngkin voters overwhelmingly said “a lot,” according to NBC News’ exit polls.
Donald Trump has hit big over the Virginia race, with McAuliffe seeking to tie his opponent to the divisive former president, who lost the state by 10 percentage points in 2020.
NBC News’ exit poll showed that 54 percent of voters said they had an unfavorable opinion of Trump, compared to 41 percent who had a positive view of him. While McAuliffe voters were almost unanimously negative about the former president, only about three-quarters (73 percent) of Youngkin voters have a positive attitude toward Trump, and 19 percent had a negative view of him.
Youngkin has tried a difficult balancing act with Trump, who praised him in a conference call on Monday, and kept him close enough to keep the conservative base engaged while trying to avoid interrupting suburban voters fleeing the GOP in recent years .
Meanwhile, about half of voters said Biden was not a factor in their vote for governor, according to the NBC News exit poll, but only 43 percent approved the way he does his job, while a small majority (56 percent) Were against. .
49 percent said Biden was not a factor in their vote, 28 percent said one reason for their vote for governor was to express opposition to Biden, and 20 percent said it was to express support for the president.
A recent expansion of early voting opportunities is expected to help increase voter turnout in Virginia, although it is unclear which party will benefit from the change.
The results are expected to come relatively quickly, although close competition may drag out the selection of a winner.