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Ralph Northam, the Democrat lieutenant governor of Virginia and the candidate to succeed Clinton bagman Terry McAuliffe, has had a fairly comfortable lead over GOP candidate Ed Gillespie. But the last couple of polls have been unsettling. They show the race tightening in an unexpected way. One poll even showed a Gillespie lead. State polls haven’t got the greatest track record in reliability but the trend is not good for Northam.

Northam has made some missteps in this campaign. He’s the guy who airbrushed the black candidate for attorney general out of some of his leaflets. But nothing compares to what happens next.

In March of this year, McAuliffe vetoed a bill that would have outlawed sanctuary cities in Virginia:

Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe has vetoed legislation banning localities from restricting the enforcement of federal immigration laws.

McAuliffe, a Democrat, announced his veto Monday, saying the measure would stoke fears among the state’s immigrant communities. He had promised to veto the measure when it passed the GOP-controlled General Assembly in February.

Republicans said the bill is needed to show that Virginia respects the rule of law and undocumented immigrants are not entitled to special privileges in sanctuary cities.

Northam supported the bill, he cast the deciding vote against the bill in the Virginia Senate the first time it was voted on and he supported McAuliffe’s veto and Gillespie has been hammering him on the trail and on the airwaves. This issue is particularly sensitive in parts of Northern Virginia where the Salvadoran street gang, MS-13, has taken root. Northern Virginia is also one of the most liberal areas of Virginia on immigration.

But when WAVY-TV interviewed Northam, much to everyone’s surprise, we found he’s always supported a ban on sanctuary cities and promised to sign a bill, like the one he had opposed just this spring.

Northam, Virginia’s sitting lieutenant governor, has insisted he opposes sanctuary cities while also accusing Gillespie of fabricating the issue for political advantage.

But in an interview Wednesday with the Norfolk TV station WAVY, Northam said for the first time that, under certain circumstances, he would sign a bill similar to the one he voted against this year, a vote that spawned a wave of ominous ads from the Gillespie campaign linking Northam to the Latino gang MS-13.

“If that bill comes to by desk … I sure will. I’ve always been opposed to sanctuary cities. He knows that,” Northam said of Gillespie, whose MS-13-themed ads have been blasted by critics as racially tinged.

Now the piper has to be paid while the chickens are coming home to roost.

Days before the election, Northam caves to opponent’s racist ads on sanctuary cities.

Virginia Democratic gubernatorial nominee Ralph Northam has said he would sign a bill to ban so-called sanctuary cities in his state, the Richmond Times-Dispatch reported.

The topic of “sanctuary cities” became a huge talking point for Republican nominee Ed Gillespie who openly claimed such localities — which, in part, allows local enforcement authorities not to detain all suspected undocumented immigrants for potential deportation proceedings on behalf of federal authorities– invites criminal activity.

To be clear, no Virginia city and county is a “sanctuary city.” But “welcoming” policies do exist in cities where police officers have chosen not to detain suspected undocumented immigrants solely on the basis of their legal status. In those cities, police will still turn over immigrants if federal immigration authorities can provide judicial arrest warrants.

Northam’s opposition came during an interview with the Norfolk TV station WAVY, in which he said he would sign a bill banning sanctuary cities. Last month during a debate, Northam only went so far as to say he does not support sanctuary cities, but did not commit to saying whether he would sign a bill to that effect.

“If that bill comes to by desk, I sure will,” Northam told WAVY on Wednesday. “I’ve always been opposed to sanctuary cities.”

And best of all:

A major national progressive group on Thursday denounced Ralph Northam, the Democratic gubernatorial candidate in Virginia, as “gutless” and “racist” for his remarks on immigration ― plunging Democrats into a bitter internecine squabble ahead of statewide elections on Tuesday.

The explanation was not enough, however, to assuage Democracy For America, a left-leaning online activism organization based in Burlington, Vermont. In response to what DFA called Northam’s “backtrack on his commitment to standing up for immigrant families,” the group declared that it would end “any work to directly aid” his campaign.

“After seeing Northam play directly into the hands of Republicans’ racist anti-immigrant rhetoric on sanctuary cities, we refuse to be silent any longer and even remotely complicit in the disastrous, racist, and voter-turnout-depressing campaign Ralph Northam appears intent on running,” DFA executive director Charles Chamberlain said in a statement.

As the HuffPo says, DFA is not removing a lot of resources from the fight:

DFA’s criticism of Northam is largely symbolic. The organization never contributed money to Northam directly; it has not even endorsed him. And according to Chamberlain, DFA had already removed Northam from its members’ get-out-the-vote call lists in October, following the campaign’s removal of Justin Fairfax, Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor in Virginia, from some campaign literature at the behest of a labor union that had a policy dispute with Fairfax. The decision drew criticism from African-American and progressive groups angry that the campaign had marginalized Fairfax, who, if elected, would be just the second black statewide elected official in Virginia’s history.

But, as Napoleon is to have said, in war, the moral is to the physical as three is to one (yes, I know it’s probably apocryphal). Turnout is the name of the game on election day and right now not only is Northam’s polling support slipping, his intensity level is slipping, too. The charges of racism and gutlessness, especially in his removal of the black attorney general candidate from literature, are going to resonate in some of the heavy Democrat areas where Northam is going to have to run up supermajorities to offset the ass-whipping he’s going to take in most of Virginia. Everything indicates that while Trump supporters are under no illusions that Gillespie is much more than what he seems, a white bread, carpetbagging, GOP apparatchik, he’s much preferable to Northam’s ersatz socialism.

Make no mistake about it. Demographic changes in Virginia have made Gillespie’s a hard row to hoe. He is still an underdog. But this casting of Northam out of the progressive fold is going to have an impact, he doesn’t have time to fix the situation, and the only real question is can he hang on to win.