Two national figures in Democratic politics, Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), urged Virginia voters to send Democrat Ralph Northam to the governor's mansion and said his victory on Tuesday would restore "hope" to the country.
In a crowded recreation center hall in deep-blue Arlington on Wednesday evening, Booker said a Democratic win would rejuvenate the party and lift spirits around the nation.
"This country is looking for hope," Booker said. "This whole country right now is waiting to see what is going to happen in Virginia on Tuesday."
Later, Ellison joined Northam, lieutenant governor candidate Justin Fairfax, Attorney General Mark Herring (D) and Democratic candidates for local legislative seats at a firehouse hall in Prince William County, a swing area.
"It's an indication of the mood of the country. It's an indication of whether or not the nation is ready to push back on the Trump message," Ellison told reporters after the event. He is a leader of the party's progressive wing who backed Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) during the Democratic presidential primary.
While the political organization that grew out of Sanders's bid, Our Revolution, did not endorse Northam, Ellison swatted away any suggestion that the split between progressives and moderates, evident during the 2016 campaign, was on display in Virginia.
"This divide is made much of, but there's not really much substance there," Ellison said. "We are pretty unified."
Booker and Ellison were the latest high-profile figures to stump for the Democratic ticket before Northam, the current lieutenant governor, faces off against Republican Ed Gillespie on Tuesday. And they are also two of the party's most notable African Americans on the campaign trail in an election where black voter turnout is crucial. Polls have shown a tight race.
Virginia's contest is the only competitive gubernatorial race this year, and both parties are watching it as a harbinger of next year's midterms. Northam's win would suggest that disapproval of Trump can translate to Democratic success at the ballot box. A victory for Gillespie would reassure Republicans that there is a route to victory in a state where Trump is deeply unpopular.
Before coming to Arlington, Booker spoke to about 50 volunteers at George Mason University who were making calls for Northam.
At both appearances, he told a cautionary tale about New Jersey — where voters came out in droves to elect Barack Obama as their president in 2008, and stayed home the next year, allowing Republican Chris Christie to become governor. That paved the road for cuts to Planned Parenthood and the earned income tax credit for low-income people, Booker said.
"Everyone wants to know why are Republicans doing this to us," he said. "Republicans didn't do this to us. We did it to ourselves"
Booker's Senate colleague, Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), hit the trail for the Democratic ticket in Richmond on Sunday. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) rallied for Gillespie in Loudoun County on Monday.
Northam on Wednesday also fended off criticism from Republicans that he flip-flopped on the issue of sanctuary cities, which don't exist in Virginia.
As lieutenant governor, Northam voted against GOP legislation that would have banned sanctuary cities, which are jurisdictions that choose not to cooperate with federal immigration authorities, maintaining that immigration is a federal responsibility and not a local function.
Northam's vote has factored large in Gillespie's campaign advertising, which has suggested that Northam has enabled criminals who are in the country illegally.
On Wednesday, Northam said during a television interview that he would sign a ban on sanctuary cites, later clarifying that he would only do so in response to a jurisdiction declaring itself a sanctuary, which none has done. His campaign says his position is consistent with his earlier statements that he is opposed to sanctuary cities.
"If a city declares itself a sanctuary city and the legislature in the General Assembly passes a law saying that that's unlawful, I would support that," Northam told reporters after his event with Ellison. "It's what I said today, it's what I've been saying all along."