MCLEAN, Va. – Virginia Democratic gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe’s camp was left shell-shocked as Republican candidate Glenn Youngkin surged to a commanding lead in a state that President Biden won by 10 points just one year ago.
Youngkin emerged with a slim lead in the polls over McAuliffe heading into Election Day, foreshadowing his strong performance on Tuesday.
McAuliffe’s election night party was initially buzzing with enthusiasm as supporters waited for polls to close. But that enthusiasm gradually shifted over the course of the night, as Democratic hopes for a swift victory melted away.
The room had largely emptied out even before Youngkin had addressed supporters at his own party.
An attendee walks away after watching election results during an election night event for Terry McAuliffe, Democratic gubernatorial candidate for Virginia. (Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg via Getty Images)
Even as results showed Youngkin with a clear lead, Virginia Democratic Rep. Don Beyer – who was in attendance at McAuliffe’s election party – said he was “still optimistic” that McAuliffe would win.
“We thought for a number of weeks this would be a very close election, it would probably go late, and, so far, it’s right on track,” Beyer told Fox News.
“Rural Virginia has come in early, relatively small districts. Youngkin’s won them easily.”
McAuliffe’s election night party largely emptied out while awaiting the race to be called. (Houston Keene/Fox News)
“I think as the big, northern Virginia jurisdictions come in — they had heavy early voting, which are the last ones counted,” the Virginia congressman continued. “It should get very tight and I’m still optimistic that McAuliffe will have, not a big win but a narrow win.”
“50.1 [percent] and they call you governor,” he added.
But as election results continued to show a strong Youngkin performance, the atmosphere in the room changed. It was no longer brimming with optimism.
Even as the race is yet to be called, many McAuliffe supporters left the party and didn’t return.
“A very tough one,” one supporter said as he left the event. Others simply grew quiet and looked worried.
Houston Keene is a reporter for Fox News Digital. You can find him on Twitter at @HoustonKeene.