MIDLOTHIAN, Va. — Renae Erskine hates how disrespectful late-night comedians, the media and congressional Democrats are toward President Trump. As a Trump supporter, she feels elites are disrespecting her, too. “We tolerated their choice, why can’t they tolerate ours?” she demanded.
Ms. Erskine, a medical assistant in this Richmond suburb, feels doubly motivated to vote in Virginia’s off-year elections on Tuesday. “I want to keep Republicans in office and I want to keep Trump in office,” she said.
Allen Moser, a Democratic voter who also lives in the suburbs, said he thought the president had committed impeachable acts, and couldn’t understand why congressional Republicans stood behind him. “When Trump said he could shoot somebody on Fifth Avenue and wouldn’t lose any votes, unfortunately that’s been shown to be true,” he said.
Mr. Moser, a retired sales manager, said he had never so strongly felt the urgency to cast a ballot. “What is happening in Washington is just very, very disturbing,” he said.
In Virginia, Kentucky and Mississippi on Tuesday, impassioned voters are set to deliver a final multistate report card on Mr. Trump before the 2020 presidential clash, at a time when an impeachment inquiry is galloping ahead in Washington and further splitting voters in a country that has rarely been so polarized.
Mr. Trump was headed to Kentucky on Monday to try to boost a Republican in a tight governor’s race, as he did in Mississippi on Friday, but he has pointedly skipped Virginia, where Republicans in contested districts are distancing themselves from him and the party.
With all 140 seats in the Virginia legislature on the ballot, the normally low-interest races are expected to send a national message from a state that has been a seismograph of voting quakes in the Trump era. A strong blue wave in statehouse races in 2017 and a Democratic gain of three congressional seats in the 2018 midterms reflected the national grass-roots mobilization of women, as well as the suburban revolt against the president.
At the same time, Republican strength in rural Virginia, which has moved steadily away from Democrats since Barack Obama was elected president, demonstrated the country’s widening partisan gap.
Voters like Ms. Erskine, who live in red regions and are eager to stand with Mr. Trump, simply may be overwhelmed by a powerful tide flooding leftward in suburbia.
In Midlothian, a suburb in Chesterfield County that Mr. Trump carried in 2016, there are signs of change. Some are literal: A truck drove up and down the Midlothian Turnpike over the weekend with a sign reading, “Democrats Get Off Your [donkey picture] And Vote!”
“I used to align mostly with Republicans,” said Richard Livingston, who works in the county as a farrier, shoeing horses, and has served as a sheriff’s deputy. “But now I think things have gotten a little crazy.”
He called Mr. Trump unfit for office and said he was distressed by the president’s “hobnobbing with dictators.” He referred to details that have emerged in the impeachment inquiry that show the president holding up military aid to Ukraine in exchange for an investigation of a political rival.
“That to me sounds like somebody that’s not really a patriot,” Mr. Livingston said. “I just feel like if we support Republicans, we are supporting him. And I’m not going to do that. I’m going to vote Democratic from here on out until things get better.”
In another race set to be decided on Tuesday, Gov. Matt Bevin of Kentucky, an unpopular Republican, has closely aligned himself with the president and fanned anger over impeachment in an attempt to outlast his Democratic challenger, Andy Beshear.
In Mississippi, the closest governor’s race in a generation matches Jim Hood, a Democrat who appeared in ads with his hunting dog and his pickup truck, against Tate Reeves, a Republican, for an open seat.
Yet Virginia is the main event, because partisan control of its legislature hangs in the balance. Republican majorities of 20-19 in the State Senate and 51-48 in the House of Delegates are threatened by demographic changes that have remade the state.
A transfer of power would enable Democrats, who already hold the governor’s mansion, to advance liberal priorities including gun restrictions and civil rights protections for women and L.G.B.T. people, and, most crucially, to draw new voting districts in 2021. Polling shows voters agree with Democrats on expanding background checks to all gun buyers, banning assault weapons and protecting abortion rights.
The prospect of a change in ideological direction has attracted a torrent of money on both sides, with 16 candidates raking in more than $1 million each and warring TV ads airing in the most competitive races. Outside interest groups are a big factor. For Democrats, those include Everytown for Gun Safety ($1.4 million) and EMILY’s List, which works to elect women who support abortion rights ($2.1 million). Republicans’ largest donor is the Republican State Leadership Committee ($3.2 million), which seeks to keep the drawing of voting districts in G.O.P. hands.
Republicans last won a statewide election in Virginia in 2009. But the party’s grip on rural seats has only grown stronger as the country’s political divides have calcified in the Trump era. Mr. Trump is not on the ballot, but he loomed large behind almost every conversation with voters in recent days. People expressed anger, anxiety, sadness, exhilaration and exhaustion.
Kathy Sherman, an antiques dealer and a Republican volunteer in Powhatan County, on the exurban fringes of Richmond, called the vote to endorse the impeachment inquiry last week “totally ridiculous” and predicted it would help her party.
“People will rebel and they’ll vote,” she said.
But Ghazala Hashmi, a Democrat seeking a Republican-held State Senate seat based in Chesterfield County, said she had spoken to voters who were so upset with the president that she called him her “unspoken catalyst.”
“I’ve had many folks at the door express, in tears, how they are sickened by national politics, they’re sickened by the fact they cannot even talk to their own neighbors or among their own family members,” said Ms. Hashmi, a former college literature professor.
An immigrant brought to America as a child from India in 1969, Ms. Hashmi was roused to seek office by Mr. Trump’s anti-Muslim rhetoric and immigration restrictions. At a rally on Saturday, she quoted Langston Hughes: “I, too, sing America.” Should she oust the Republican incumbent, Glen Sturtevant, she would be the first Muslim woman in the State Senate.
Both parties anticipate a record turnout for elections in which no statewide offices or the presidency are on the ballot.
“One of the things Donald Trump has done, for good or bad, has made people aware how important the stakes are when you show up and when you don’t show up,” said Schuyler VanValkenburg, a Democratic member of the House of Delegates elected in 2017 in Henrico County, which is north and east of Richmond and used to be a Republican stronghold. “That applies both to his base and our base.”
A poll last month of four competitive State Senate races by Christopher Newport University in Newport News, Va., found 59 percent of likely voters were less inclined to vote for a candidate who supported Mr. Trump.
Quentin Kidd, director of the university’s Wason Center for Public Policy, which conducted the poll, predicted that the Democratic enthusiasm that led the party to a surprising gain of 15 seats in the House of Delegates in 2017 would likely be more closely matched this year by Republican enthusiasm. Two years ago, business-oriented Republicans were “embarrassed” by Mr. Trump, he said. “I think Republicans have gotten themselves around that. Trump is Trump. They’ve come to accept that.”
Scott Moore, a real estate investor in Henrico County, who said he loved “everything” Mr. Trump was doing, predicted Democrats’ timing on impeachment would backfire and motivate Republicans to turn out. “I think that’s on everybody’s mind,” he said, adding that he thought Democrats were “desperate to come up with something, anything, because they don’t have a candidate that can beat him right now.”
But Kim Young, a counselor for troubled youth who also lives in the county, said his vote for Democrats would be “100 percent” a message to Mr. Trump. “It’s just to let you know that your term is coming up and even if the impeachment doesn’t happen, I’m not going to stand by and listen to another four years,” he said.
Siobhan Dunnavant, a Republican state senator seeking re-election in Henrico County, in one of the state’s most competitive races, has distanced herself from the president. Her yard signs in rural areas identify her as a Republican, but the party label is omitted in suburbia.
Four years ago, in the pre-Trump era, Ms. Dunnavant, an obstetrician-gynecologist, won election by 20 points. Now she faces a tough challenge from Debra Rodman, a freshman member of the House of Delegates who was stirred to run in 2017 by opposition to Mr. Trump. Ms. Rodman said her internal polling showed a tied race.
Ms. Rodman was unknown two years ago. “This time around, I get to the door, they’re like, ‘Hey, honey, come down, Debra Rodman’s at our door,’” she said. “They’re really just motivated by what’s going on at the top, but also in the White House.”
The race has attracted more TV spending than any in the state, $2.1 million, much of it for negative ads: Ms. Rodman accuses her opponent of seeking to restrict abortion and opposing gun safety; Ms. Dunnavant attacks Ms. Rodman as a “radical” who favors “taxpayer-funded elective transgender surgeries.”
In an interview, Ms. Dunnavant said that state issues were top of mind for most voters, but that impeachment loomed in the background. “I do think people are saying, why are the Democrats putting us through this a year away from the election?” she said. “And why aren’t they getting anything done? And then they come back to the fact that in Virginia, we still do get stuff done.”
On Saturday, at a get-out-the-vote rally for Democrats in a leafy backyard in Midlothian, former Attorney General Eric Holder, making a stop on a statewide swing, sought to inspire a phalanx of door knockers.
He promised that in 2020 the party would send “the orange guy” packing. Before then, he said, Tuesday’s election would be seen nationally as a bellwether.
“I can guarantee that the news media will be looking at the election results,” he told the volunteers. “And they’ll be saying, well, this is an assessment of — fill in the blank — Trump, the Republicans, direction of the country, all that stuff.”
“But no pressure,” he said.
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