Glenn Youngkin (R) and Terry McAuliffe (D) began their final push across the state Saturday with three days to go before Election Day, as the candidates remain locked in a dead-heat race for the governor’s mansion.

Youngkin made a flurry of appearances in Northern Virginia, the area of the state where he faces the most resistance, and stuck to driving home his platforms on education and lowering taxes in a bid to appeal to parents and fiscal conservatives. During a bus tour Saturday through five cities in southeastern Virginia, McAuliffe continued to pitch himself as the former governor who brought jobs and businesses back to the state after the Great Recession. He pledged to do so again after the pandemic, while arguing Youngkin’s focus on culture-war issues would hurt business and repeatedly tying him to former president Donald Trump.

A recent Washington Post-Schar School poll showed the race was a toss-up, with McAuliffe ahead by just one percentage point.

During a campaign stop in Norfolk, McAuliffe said he wasn’t concerned about the polls showing a tight race. “From my perspective the polls haven’t changed at all — apparently 1 to 3 (points),” he said. “This has been going on now for a long time. It hasn’t really changed; there hasn’t been any movement.”

The Nov. 2 Virginia election has become an unexpectedly close contest. The commonwealth holds elections for governor, lieutenant governor and statewide offices. (Luis Velarde, Hadley Green/The Washington Post)

While McAuliffe has campaigned with President Biden, Vice President Harris and former president Barack Obama in recent days and weeks to rev up supporters, Youngkin continued avoiding mentioning Trump as he tries to shore up votes from moderates and independents. He told reporters in Alexandria that he would not be partaking in a tele-rally that Trump is expected to headline Monday evening to stump for Youngkin, skipping out on joining the former president for the second time this month. He did not specifically say whether he welcomed Trump’s appearance or mention him by name. In 2020, Biden defeated Trump in Virginia by 10 percentage points.

“I’m not going to be engaged in the tele-townhall, but we have more people helping us than you could possibly believe,” Youngkin said, ticking off various groups.

Youngkin kicked off the day at a farmers market in deep-blue Old Town Alexandria, where dozens of supporters gathered at the corner of King and Fairfax streets, spilling into the intersection and yelling, “Let’s go, Glenn!” Through a megaphone, Youngkin cracked, “I’ve been traveling all around the great Commonwealth of Virginia telling everybody I didn’t think there were any Republicans in Old Town Alexandria.”

He sought to paint McAuliffe as the candidate of “government control” while arguing McAuliffe would give too much power to unions and drastically chill business. He also argued that McAuliffe would “stand between parents and their children,” and that McAuliffe’s legacy on education “should be called ‘leave every child behind.’"

On his first day in office, if elected, Youngkin said he would eliminate the sales tax on groceries, fire the state’s parole board and implement a host of education initiatives. He said he’d boost the state’s education budget while expanding charter schools and raising teacher salaries. And, drawing on one of the issues that has most palpably energized the Republican base this election season, Youngkin elicited the loudest applause when he said he would “ban critical race theory in our schools,” even though the academic framework examining systemic racism is not part of the state’s K-12 curriculum.

“We will not teach children to view everything through the lens of race,” he said.

At a campaign stop later that afternoon, supporters packed into the Manassas Park Community Center for a get-out-the-vote rally. When asked what excited them most about Youngkin’s platform, a number of supporters pointed first and foremost to Youngkin’s assault on critical race theory.

Dawn Hoffman, 53, said she did not have kids in Virginia public schools but that her niece attends one and she was concerned about her education. Critical race theory isn’t taught in her niece’s school now, she said, but she feared it could be in the future. “You can’t eradicate racism with racism,” she said.

“He’s going to restore the constitutional rights of all Virginians, and get rid of this critical race theory, which is a scam in the schools,” said John Shultz, 65, adding that he believed Youngkin’s proposed tax policies would boost the economy.

At his first event in Norfolk with about 40 canvassers from the American Federation of Teachers, McAuliffe stressed that he was focused on education and health care, while calling Youngkin the anti-union, anti-woman candidate and accusing him of racism.

McAuliffe said his opponent was closing his campaign by railing against a book by one of the most famous African American authors in U.S. history. Youngkin recently released an ad featuring a woman who waged a battle against Toni Morrison’s “Beloved” — a Pulitzer Prize-winning novel showing the horrors of slavery — in her son’s school, arguing parents should be able to opt their children out of reading assignments they consider too sexually explicit.

“There are hundreds of books in our school system that parents may not like. Why he picked the one Black author today, I’ll let you answer that question,” McAuliffe said.

“We already know,” murmured a woman in the crowd.

McAuliffe boasted about his ability to attract businesses as governor, while highlighting his policies supporting workers, such as a $15 minimum wage and paid family leave. Youngkin’s policies, he argued, would make the state unattractive to those same companies. “Amazon, Google, Facebook, are not moving to states that discriminate against gays or women,” he said during an interview. “We would never have gotten the Amazon deal here if Glenn Youngkin were governor. He’s a culture warrior.”

He continued to link Youngkin with Trump. “He’s got Trump coming in. And I had Barack Obama, Joe Biden and Kamala Harris,” he said. “So I’ll take my side of that bet any day of the week.”

Both Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) and McAuliffe said turnout would be the key to a Democratic victory, and McAuliffe said enthusiasm was rising, noting canvassers would knock on 350,000 doors this weekend.

“We organize the early vote better than the other guys,” Kaine said in an interview. “Part of it is Donald Trump has so demeaned early voting that people go to Youngkin early-vote rallies right across the street from the registrar, and then they don’t go for an early vote. When they get interviewed about why, they say, ‘Well, Donald Trump said it was rigged.’”

At the Youngkin rally in Manassas Park, however, Youngkin asked the crowd how many had voted early and nearly half the supporters raised their hands.

At a Virginia Beach restaurant later Saturday, McAuliffe asked, “Who here hasn’t voted?”

Only one woman raised her hand.

“Today,” McAuliffe admonished her.