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If Virginia is decided on policy platforms, it shouldn't be close

When it comes to the policy platforms Terry McAuliffe and Glenn Youngkin have presented to voters, the wonk gap between the two rivals is dramatic.

I won't pretend to know who'll win today's gubernatorial race in Virginia, though Republicans appear to have reason to be optimistic. The polls show Glenn Youngkin with the momentum, and Democratic insiderx are already starting to point fingers. It's likely to be close, though it's clear which way the winds are blowing.

If former Gov. Terry McAuliffe falls short, we'll likely hear plenty of second-guessing about his messaging and strategy. Already, there's been some chatter about the Democratic nominee focusing too much attention on Donald Trump and investing too much time into tying the Republican nominee to the former president.

With this in mind, it's worth pausing to appreciate just how wonky McAuliffe's policy platform is. I realize this isn't the sort of thing most voters will take the time to scrutinize, but if Virginia's contest came down to which of the major party candidates presented the most detailed and substantive governing vision, the GOP nominee wouldn't stand a chance.

Youngkin's campaign website features a modest "game plan," featuring five sections, each of which present voters with a handful of bullet points. The Republican's plan is light on details and heavy on platitudes: Youngkin, for example, believes in "protecting our Constitutional Rights" and "restoring high expectations" in schools. Good to know.

It's the kind of policy agenda a consultant could sketch out on a couple of cocktail napkins.

And then there's McAuliffe's online issues page.

The Democratic candidate has 20 issue areas, each of which include a one-page summary of his priorities in a given area, alongside a longer and more detailed plan, complete with footnotes. These are not collections of bullet points: McAuliffe's economic plan is nearly 5,000 words spanning 11 pages. His housing plan is just as long. His proposed justice reforms are even longer. His health care plan is the longest and most detailed part of his agenda.

In general, this isn't the sort of thing that dictates outcomes. What's more, if I had to guess, I'd say the number of voters in the commonwealth who read through McAuliffe's entire governing blueprint, spanning nearly 200 pages, is vanishingly small.

But let's not pretend the former governor's platform amounted to little more than an anti-Trump bumper sticker. There's room for debate about whether McAuliffe emphasized his ideas enough in advertising and on the stump, but he and his team presented voters with a robust platform.

Youngkin and his team did not. Maybe it's because the GOP is a post-policy party that's given up on the idea that governing matters, or perhaps it's because the Republican campaign suspected Virginians may not like the candidate's ideas if they were fleshed out in detail.

Either way, the wonk gap between the two rivals is dramatic.