In recent days, Democratic gubernatorial nominee Terry McAuliffe has waged a low-key campaign in Southside Virginia, trying to avoid attracting attention while he chases turnout numbers.
On Tuesday, he even came to a lopsided victory over Northam in the Democratic primary election in a new poll.
Yet in an exclusive interview with The Washington Post, he spoke in typically frank fashion, casting himself as a political innovator — one who may be in the middle of a transformational movement for the Democratic Party. “Do you know what I’m talking about? I’m talking about disruption of the traditional model of politics,” he said.
To promote his message of change, Mr. McAuliffe has been running small-dollar fundraisers in the greater Richmond area. Unlike most of his rivals, he doesn’t have a campaign bus — and he doesn’t know how much more money he can raise through small-dollar donations before the general election campaign.
Over the course of the past year, his total donations have climbed, climbing from just over $7 million in 2016 to $10.6 million by the end of June.
But despite his well-regarded fundraising abilities, his political team is still developing an in-depth strategy for each of the state’s 12 congressional districts, which may show signs of “partisanship” and “patterns of activism,” as he put it.
The first-term attorney general, Ralph Northam, outraised Mr. McAuliffe throughout the primary contest, and still had a $1.1 million cash-on-hand advantage heading into September, the last month in which finance reports will be filed.
Indeed, Mr. McAuliffe has yet to catch up with the Republican nominee in the race, Corey Stewart, who outraised Mr. Stewart two to one. Mr. Stewart’s campaign also released results of a new poll that showed him leading Mr. McAuliffe among registered voters by 23 percentage points.
But those are poor numbers for a sitting governor, and they don’t even include Republicans, who by state law aren’t required to report donations until September.
It’s been a strikingly different approach for a political career built on self-promotion, having described himself as a professional political buff.
“I don’t do negative politics. My whole shtick — if you know me — is I would never say anything personal or negative about people,” he said. “For me, I think it’s good strategy, not negativity.”
But he also admitted that, at 75, “I can’t run and hide forever.”