In the middle of two debates between Rep. Elaine Luria (D-Va.) and Republican challenger Scott Taylor this week, the Cook Political Report changed its rating of the race in Luria’s favor, just as a poll was released showing her with a slight lead.

Cook shifted the race, which had been considered one of the most competitive in the nation, from a “toss-up” to “leans Democratic.” Dave Wasserman, Cook’s U.S. House editor, said in an interview ahead of the shift that “the larger political environment” — meaning the apparent unpopularity of President Trump in the Virginia Beach-based district — “is the bigger problem for Taylor.”

“Keep in mind, Trump only carried this district by three [points] last time, so Biden is likely to carry it by a few points,” Wasserman said. “I don’t see enough crossover voters for Taylor to win.”

The 2nd District race is a rematch for Taylor and Luria. They also faced off in 2018, when Taylor was the first-term incumbent and Luria rode a wave of Democratic energy to flip the seat.

At their first debate Tuesday night, the Navy veterans accused each other of lying, using scare tactics and misrepresenting the other’s record or positions on a variety of issues: the Green New Deal, protection of preexisting conditions in health care, Black Lives Matter and China.

“The only thing he said that is true is we have real differences,” Luria said during an exchange about gun control. She supports universal background checks and red-flag laws — allowing the removal of guns from people at risk of harming themselves or others — and would consider outlawing suppressors, gun-silencing instruments that she said contributed to a mass shooting on Memorial Day weekend last year in Virginia Beach. “We do need responsible guard rails around gun ownership.”

Taylor called her position “insane, absolutely insane.”

“Who is Mrs. Luria to tell us, American citizens, how many rounds we can have in a magazine?” he asked. “Every single policy she advanced would not have prevented the violence in Virginia Beach.”

Luria defines herself as a moderate Democrat who occasionally votes against her party’s policies and is a member of the bipartisan “problem-solvers” caucus in Congress. Taylor, a conservative who said Trump has done a good job addressing the coronavirus pandemic, touts his support from law enforcement.

Taylor is still addressing the fallout from a 2018 fraud scandal in which his former campaign staffers were charged with forging signatures on a petition to try to get a third-party spoiler candidate on the ballot. Two of those staffers have pleaded guilty, and a third was indicted in September. Taylor has not been charged and says he is not a target.

“We made faulty decisions that were regrettable, but we’ve moved on from that now,” he said Tuesday night.

The debate, which aired on WKTR television in the Hampton Roads region, was spirited from the start. Both candidates said they were in favor of robust defense spending — a nod to the eight major military installations in the district — but slugged it out over their differences in coronavirus relief, gun control and Medicaid expansion.

After Taylor accused Luria of having the “worst constituent services in Virginia” and failing to take a hard line with China, Luria told him he was “fearmongering with stupid political talking points.”

She also said the constituent complaint he was citing had been repeatedly addressed by her staff.

Both candidates said they supported wearing masks in public to stop the spread of the coronavirus, but neither wants the federal government to mandate it. Their differences showed up here, too. Taylor, who said he privately sought personal protective equipment for Virginia first responders, accused Congress of doing nothing to lead the country out of the crisis; Luria pointed to four major coronavirus relief acts Congress passed.

“The lockdowns were much more harmful than the actual pandemic,” Taylor said.

He also said he does not support the expansion of Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, which has provided 400,000 previously uninsured state residents with medical coverage: “We can do much better than putting people on Medicaid.” He has pledged strong support for Trump’s agenda, including to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

Luria did not address the whole of the ACA, but she said her opponent seeks to remove protections for people who have preexisting conditions, a statement that Taylor called “false,” in one of many interruptions in the debate.

A poll released Wednesday morning by Christopher Newport University’s Wason Center for Public Policy showed Luria leading Taylor by seven points, with a margin of error of 3.8 percentage points for each candidate.

Luria is ahead by double digits among female voters and college-educated voters, the poll found. Though both candidates have been targeting voters who identify themselves as independents, Luria has a 34-point lead among those voters.

Among voters who said they believed the 2018 fraud scandal was important, Luria leads by 48 points.

The Wason poll found Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden has a nine-point lead over Trump among 2nd District voters, another good sign for Luria.