MANASSAS, Va. — Gov. Wes Moore’s black SUV pulled up to a dimly lit parking lot behind a small, gray house-turned-office in suburban Virginia on Saturday night, the last of a half-dozen campaign stops across the commonwealth.
Earlier in the day, he’d spoken to hundreds at boisterous rallies and a festive breakfast. By the time night fell, the governor was in Manassas, climbing the steps to the small office where a couple of dozen mostly young campaign staffers and volunteers waited, one clutching a copy of Moore’s bestselling book.
“Everyone’s eyeballs are on y’all right now, man,” Moore told the group. “Everyone’s eyes are on Virginia. Everyone’s looking to see what’s going to happen on Tuesday.”
He exhorted them to stay the course and push to get Democrats to the polls on Tuesday, a message he repeated across Virginia over the course of the day.
Moore — and Virginia Democrats — hope his cross-border campaigning will help push his favored candidates in a crucial and nationally watched election. The first-term governor is in demand. He’s a surrogate for President Joe Biden’s reelection campaign, and the Democratic Governors Association asked Moore to help lead national fundraising efforts.
The stakes are high in Virginia, as the two major parties are battling for control of the legislature. Democrats control the Senate, while Republicans have the majority in the House of Delegates.
Democrats are particularly wary of losing ground to Republican lawmakers, who could help Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin in his efforts to limit access to abortions, expand school choice and repeal climate change policies.
Youngkin, like Moore, is a rising national star in his party, and a successful election season could boost his profile further. Some have suggested he enter the 2024 race for president, though time is running short to launch a campaign.
And some are watching to see whether Virginia’s elections this year might be a predictor of what will happen in the 2024 elections for Congress and president.
Democrats have turned to national stars to help their cause. Biden released a last-minute set of endorsements for legislative candidates Saturday, while former President Barack Obama recorded get-out-the-vote robocalls, according to Politico.
Del. Dan Helmer, campaign chairman for Democrats in the Virginia House of Delegates, said the help will make a difference. Helmer’s known Moore for years — they were Rhodes scholars a few years apart — and he thought the governor’s presence would resonate in Virginia.
“Having a dedicated public servant who served in the military, understands what service is about and is coming here because he knows that freedom and democracy is on the line in Virginia is absolutely critical,” Helmer said.
Youngkin and Republicans are unimpressed.
“Virginia Democrats are using Joe Biden, Kamala Harris and Nancy Pelosi as surrogates because their candidates have no agenda. No vision,” Youngkin adviser Dave Rexrode said in a statement. “They are offering nothing but fear to Virginians.”
In Manassas, Moore told candidates and supporters it’s important to defeat Republicans, who he said would interfere in a woman’s reproductive choices and restrict what kids learn in school.
“We know it’s not just about the impact this is going to have in Manassas. It’s not just the impact it’s going to have in Richmond. It’s not just the impact it’s going to have on the entire state,” Moore said. “It’s the impact that this is going to have on our national soul.”
Moore sang the praises of the candidates working out of the small office: Del. Danica Roem, running for the Senate, and Josh Thomas, running for delegate.
“You’ve got the leaders here that are ready to do the work and have already been doing it,” Moore said. “Proven leaders who are showing that victory is not about an election. Victory is about: Do we understand the assignment? And do we understand the moment?”
Earlier in the afternoon, Moore was in Henrico County in the Richmond suburbs, standing at the steps of a different house-turned-office.
Volunteers streamed in to check in for their door-knocking routes and to pick up campaign postcards and flyers for Del. Schuyler VanValkenburg, running for the Senate, and Del. Rodney Willett, running for reelection.
Willett said he hoped the governor’s support would help Democrats win enough seats so they can stop “playing defense” and instead push their own agenda, including abortion access and voting rights.
Moore told the Henrico volunteers they can’t rest until Tuesday is over.
“Come Wednesday morning, all of you should be exhausted. But I’m here to tell you this: There is nothing more healing than victory,” he said.
Even though he wasn’t the candidate running, Moore turned on his high-wattage smile, deployed hugs, petted dogs and posed for pictures at each of his stops.
In Manassas, Steve Voltaire handed Moore a well-worn copy of “The Other Wes Moore,” the governor’s memoir that contrasts his own life with a similarly named and similarly aged man from Baltimore who ended up serving a life sentence. Moore signed the book and posed for pictures with the young man.
“I’ve been all over the country, and this book inspired me a lot,” Voltaire said, before turning to show the book to other campaign workers as Moore kept snapping pictures with admirers.
In addition to his daylong campaign swing, Moore already attended fundraisers for Virginia candidates this fall, and last week he sent out an email to supporters soliciting donations for the Virginia Majority Project.
“Friend,” the email read, “Virginia is a testing ground for the MAGA 2024 election playbook. If they win there ... they’ll try the same approach in Maryland and across the country.”
Moore expressed optimism that his efforts will matter once results start coming in Tuesday.
“I know what it feels like when you’re on the cusp of a big victory,” he said in a brief interview. “And that’s exactly what I’m feeling in Henrico; it’s exactly what I’m feeling all throughout the state.”