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A gubernatorial race in a faraway state will help shape next year’s elections.

Political junkies are watching the gubernatorial contest in Virginia with avid interest as what should be a Democratic blowout has turned into an up-for-grabs race.

Former Gov. Terry McAuliffe,

a well-heeled Democrat who was popular when he served from 2014-18, has watched as his campaign run off the rails.

Whether that’s his fault or that of another unnamed Democrat who just happens to reside in the White House is unclear. But polls indicate McAuliffe is running neck and neck with former-businessman-turned-GOP-candidate Glenn Youngkin.

Once GOP territory, Virginia is now solidly Democratic, to the point that it’s unthinkable a Republican could win a statewide race absent some political catastrophe befalling the majority party.

A GOP victory may not happen given the state’s partisan leanings. But just the fact that it could happen has some Democrats quaking in their boots as they contemplate further negative political fallout in the 2022 general election.

With candidates like McAuliffe in trouble and President Joe Biden’s poll numbers approaching new lows by the day, incumbent Democrats in Congress either already have announced retirements or continue to contemplate that option. Republican members of Congress did the same thing as the 2018 election approached during President Donald Trump’s presidency.

Virginia’s governor, of course, is Virginia’s problem. Current Democratic governor Ralph Northam is best known for appearing in blackface years ago at a college social event. He survived the possibility of forced removal because Virginia is so overwhelmingly Democratic that the powers that be there couldn’t abide the possibility of a Republican taking Northrup’s place.

But that was then, and this is now.

Perception will help shape reality, and the perception now is that a McAuliffe defeat would demonstrate just how fed up voters — particularly independents — are with Biden’s decision to abandon his pledge to offer moderate, unifying leadership and embrace the policies and attitudes of his party’s evangelistic liberals.

That approach is not going well, to say the least. His unwise but understandable political pledge to quell the coronavirus pandemic has flopped. His decision to open the Mexican border to noncitizens has led to hundreds of thousands of other countries’ citizens flooding Texas, Arizona and states beyond.

Energy prices are skyrocketing as a consequence of his decision to block as much domestic energy production as he can. At the same time, inflation driven by his ambitious spending plans poses a real threat to pocketbooks of average citizens.

As a consequence, the president’s reverse Midas touch appears to have alienated voters, endangering even the safest of Democrats like McAuliffe.

The saying is that a week is a lifetime in politics. The 2022 general election is a year away, so Biden and the Democrats have time to recover.

But it will be no easy task. It will be made much harder if Virginia reveals political problems that can’t be explained away.

Keep an eye on Virginia. The results could speak volumes.

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