Near midnight, the election was still too early to print. As the vote count progressed, both seemed to be close.
In Virginia, Democrat Terry McAuliffe spoke to supporters in the Washington suburbs, promising to “count all those votes.”
Kristin Davison, an aide to Republican Glenn Youngkin, appeared on stage at a separate event and said his campaign would continue to track incoming votes, but was pleased with the way things seemed to be going.
Meanwhile, in New Jersey, Gov. Phil Murphy tried to win re-election against former Republican Rep. Jack Ciattarelli in a race that was also too early to call.
If successful, Murphy would be the first Democrat re-elected as state governor in 44 years.
Tonight’s results, however, can ultimately be interpreted as an early verdict by Biden, who conquered Virginia last year by a comfortable 10-point margin and easily won New Jersey.
The proximity of the governor’s races showed how much his party’s political fortunes have changed in a short time.
The White House has been shaken in recent months by the chaotic withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan, a sometimes sluggish economic recovery amid the pandemic and a legislative agenda that risks stalling on Capitol Hill.
A loss in Virginia, which has been evolving toward Democrats for more than a decade, would especially reinforce the feeling of alarm in the party heading into next year’s midterm elections, where control of Congress is at stake.
But Biden expressed optimism during the evening, acknowledging that “the free year is always unpredictable.”
“I think we’re going to win in Virginia,” Biden said at a news conference in Scotland, where he attended an international climate summit.
“I do not think – and I have not seen any evidence that – whether I do well or badly, whether I have my agenda approved or not, will have any real impact on winning or losing.”
Elsewhere, Democrat Eric Adams won New York’s mayoral election, and a ballot question promoted by the best national progressives was defeated in Minneapolis.
It had sought to reshuffle police work in the city, where the assassination of George Floyd last year sparked widespread racial justice demonstrations across the nation.
But no other race received the same attention as the Virginia governor’s campaign.
This is in part because such contests in many states have sometimes shown voter frustration over a party just in power, heralding a significant turnout in Congress the following year.
In 2009, during President Barack Obama’s first year in office, Republican Bob McDonnell’s victory in Virginia marked a disastrous midway cycle for Democrats, who lost more than 60 seats in the House of Representatives the following year.
At the top of the Virginia Republican ticket stood a white man in Mr Youngkin, a black woman, Winsome Sears, who ran for lieutenant governor, vying to be the first colored woman to hold the post, and a Latin American man running for justice. , Jason Miyares.
AP VoteCast, a nationwide poll, found that about half of Virginia’s residents had positive opinions about Mr. Youngkin, compared to 55 percent who said they had unfavorable opinions about Trump, suggesting that the Republican the gubernatorial candidate had successfully distanced himself from the former president.
Youngkin was supported by Trump, but did not appear in person with him, although the party is still dominated by the former president.
McAuliffe, on the other hand, campaigned with his party’s best national stars, including Biden, whose last visit to Virginia came a week before election day.
VoteCast found Biden underwater, with 48 percent of Virginia voters approving his job performance compared to 52 percent who did not approve – especially sharp in a state he had won so conveniently.
VoteCast also found that Mr Youngkin made small gains in the suburbs, remaining competitive with Mr McAuliffe, after about six out of 10 voters in the same areas supported Biden over Trump last year.
In Norfolk, along the state’s Atlantic coast, 29-year-old Cassandra Ogren said she voted for Mr McAuliffe, in part because of his support for abortion rights and her concern over the restrictions recently passed in Texas, where a new law for mostly prohibits the procedure.
But she was also motivated by Mr Youngkin’s ties to Trump.
“Anyone who is approved by President Trump is not someone I want to represent,” Ms. Ogren said.
VoteCast found that Virginia voters saw the economy as the race’s biggest problem, followed by the coronavirus pandemic and schools.
The importance many voters attached to schools seemed like good news to Mr. Youngkin.
His promise to ensure that parents have greater influence over what their children are taught was a key element of his campaign, which was possibly a warning of similar arguments GOP candidates will use across the country next year.
Youngkin has rejected “critical race theory,” an academic framework centered on the idea that racism is systemic in the nation’s institutions and that it works to maintain the dominance of white people.
In recent months, it has become a major political buzzword for any school education about race and American history.
The question gained more weight after Mr McAuliffe said during a debate that “I do not think parents should tell schools what to teach.”
Bennett White, 24, a Youngkin voter in Norfolk, said he did not want “our next generation of leaders to look at their peers in the lens of the race.”
“I just want to make sure my mom is safe in the classroom,” said White, whose mother is a teacher, “and that her ideals and the ideals of everyone are protected and that we do not become brainwashing academies.”