Before the Commonwealth of Virginia had a governor who swanned about in black face, there was “Good Times” Terry McAuliffe and he now wants his old job back.  Except now McAuliffe has a new sobriquet: “Sweaty” Terry. The desperate whine of his campaign communiqués over the past two weeks signals a man who is likely to lose tomorrow, even though America is still a land where anything’s possible.

Virginia’s gubernatorial election often attracts outsized attention because it is in an off year. Nationally, pundits see it as a canary in a coal mine, with good reason. Nine months into the Biden administration, tomorrow’s election there is a sounding on how Democrats are faring before the 2022 midterms. For at least a couple of reasons, this race is a weathervane.

Republican candidate Glenn Youngkin is a newcomer to politics, having previously run a successful venture capital firm. Most polls show him neck-and-neck with McAuliffe, which is bad news for the former governor. The “devil you know” argument doesn’t seem to hold much sway, even in the wake of Halloween.

Democratic efforts to paint Youngkin as a Trumpkin haven’t gained much traction.  While almost every national-level Democrat has been in Virginia recently, campaigning for McAuliffe, Donald Trump has been remarkably restrained in staying out of the Commonwealth to date (though the New York Post reports he’ll do a phone-in rally this evening – still not crossing state lines).

So now McAuliffe allies are just making things up. This weekend the past-its-expiration-date Lincoln Project staged a fake crew of torch-bearing Youngkin supporters in an effort to associate the Republican candidate, without any basis in fact, to the horrific Charlottesville “Unite the Right” rally of 2017. The lead editorial of this morning’s Wall Street Journal takes a closer look at that sham, but the fact it happened at all reflects on how things are going with the race.

Glenn Youngkin is not Ralph Northam (the outgoing Democrat whose college yearbook features him lampooning blacks).

Then there is a little thing called momentum. Simply by comparing resumes, Virginians who want change will see the guy who hasn’t previously sat in the governor’s chair as something new. Those who want to clear the air and start fresh are likely to gravitate toward the new guy, especially if he’s not sweating.

But there is also the scandal of the Loudoun County school board, which this column has previously addressed. The National Education Association, or teachers’ lobby, has put some effort into getting its members to say that McAuliffe’s statement about parents having no role in curriculum setting was taken out of context. I know because my sister, a member, tried it last week on me….

Then there is the president himself.

On Thursday morning, Biden was due to flit off to Europe while his Build Back Better bill languished in the Democrat-controlled House.  Reading how close the polls are in Virginia (despite his stumping there for McAuliffe earlier last week), he boldly decided to delay his trip a few hours and make a final, behind-closed-doors push with House leaders. Which went precisely nowhere.

If you thought Saturday night’s winds were strong, they pale in comparison to what McAuliffe is facing in the final hours of his angst-ridden push. Remember when pre-election polls last year showed Sara Gideon neck and neck with Susan Collins?  What’s happened underneath the topline numbers sometimes matters.

Tomorrow’s election in Virginia will be close, though, and if you haven’t guessed, your columnist favors Youngkin. Any effort to grease the skids between polling places and counting centers will turn out badly, perhaps even violently. But there will be plenty of eyes on the process, and the best thing for outsiders to do now is just let nature take its course.

More often than not, the season’s change brings its own breath of fresh air.

Sam Patten is a recovering political consultant who was raised in Knox County and worked for Maine’s last three Republican senators.