On Tuesday, voters in Virginia will elect a replacement for outgoing Gov. Ralph Northam. They’ll choose between Democratic nominee Terry McAuliffe, a former governor of Virginia, and Republican Glenn Youngkin, a businessman who spent 25 years in private equity at the Carlyle Group.
It won’t just be Virginians who are observing the outcome. In recent decades, gubernatorial races in Virginia—which happen the year following presidential elections—have become a closely watched spectacle by power players in both parties who are trying to figure out what the political landscape looks like before they head into the higher-stakes midterms. In 2013, McAuliffe’s slim +2.6 percentage point win in the blue state foreshadowed his party’s weak showing in the 2014 midterms. Meanwhile, the +8.9 point win by Northam in 2017 preceded a big win nationally by his Democratic peers in the 2018 midterms.
Republicans are hoping a strong showing in a state where Joe Biden beat Donald Trump by +10.1 points signals their ability to retake the House and Senate next November. While Democrats think a Northam win demonstrates they can hold on to their suburban gains even without Trump in office.
But where do things stand as voters head into the polls? To better understand, Fortune rounded up the latest polling and betting odds data in the following three charts.
In the final two weeks of October, nine pollsters dropped a reading of the race. When viewed together, they show a race that is, at least in terms of polling, in a dead heat.
Of those polls, McAuliffe leads in four. The bad news for Democrats? In those four polls—conducted by Christopher Newport University, USA Today, Roanoke College, and the Washington Post—he leads by only one point. That’s well within the margin of error. Meanwhile, Youngkin leads in three polls (conducted by Fox News, Trafalgar, and InsiderAdvantage), while the remaining two polls (Emerson and Monmouth) are a tie.
Just how close is the race? Of those nine polls, only one poll (the Fox News poll that has Youngkin up +8 points) is outside the margin of error range. Simply put, pollsters aren’t really certain who is ahead.
When the polls are aggregated, they show Youngkin leading by a razor-thin margin. According to RealClearPolitics’ polling average for the race, he’s up by +1.7 points over McAuliffe. But that will hardly make Youngkin’s team feel comfortable. After all, heading into the November election, Biden was ahead in the polling average in Florida (+0.9 points), and Trump was up in Georgia (+1 point). However, Trump would go on to win Florida by 3.3 points, while Biden took Georgia by 0.3 points.
What’s more certain is who has the momentum. When RealClearPolitics calculated the first polling average for the race on Aug. 17, McAuliffe commanded a +5.5 point edge. But that lead was erased by Oct. 28, when Youngkin overtook him in the polling average.
You’d be hard-pressed to find a candidate who didn’t say he or she was feeling confident heading into election night. (In that regard, the campaigns of McAuliffe and Youngkin are no exception.) That’s why it’s often better to look at the betting markets where investors—who have their money on the line—are a whole lot more honest.
As of the close of trading on Monday, Youngkin leads by a small margin in the betting market, according to PredictIt. But what’s more interesting might simply be the betting market’s trajectory: At the beginning of October, McAuliffe was running away with the betting odds. However, by Oct. 29, his betting market lead had vanished.
More politics coverage from Fortune:
- Federal vaccine mandates could cost businesses millions per week
- Florida Gov. DeSantis offers $5,000 bonus to lure anti-vax police from out of state
- 3 states limit nursing home profits in bid to improve care
- The latest meme stock in the Trump SPAC wave: Phunware
- Pregnancy loss is common. Paid time off afterward is not
Subscribe to Fortune Daily to get essential business stories delivered straight to your inbox each morning.