ARLINGTON, Va. — President Obama delivered the closing argument for Terry McAuliffe’s campaign for Virginia governor Sunday, telling an eager crowd that Tuesday’s vote would determine whether the forces behind the federal government shutdown would gain control of Richmond.
‘‘This election is going to say a lot about Virginia’s future and about the country’s future,’’ Obama told a packed at Washington-Lee High School, where White House officials estimated the crowd at about 1,600.
The event marked the latest effort by McAuliffe, a Democrat, and his Republican opponent, Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, to use big-name surrogates to persuade Virginians to do something they often skip in off-year elections — vote.
‘‘Nothing makes me more nervous than when my supporters start feeling too confident, so I want to put the fear of God in all of you,’’ Obama said.
Democrats hope Obama’s public backing of McAuliffe will excite the base in Virginia, particularly the coalition of young voters and blacks who helped propel Obama to victory in the state in 2008 and 2012. But Republicans believe the president arrived at exactly the wrong time to aid McAuliffe, given the intense focus on the flawed rollout of the Affordable Care Act.
Cuccinelli focused almost exclusively on the Obama health care law Sunday as he and his campaign staff loaded onto a plane for a swing through the more rural and conservative parts of the state.
His hope was for a last-minute upset, given the lead McAuliffe has held in the polls for several weeks. McAuliffe’s lead varies widely depending on the survey, and Cuccinelli said he believes the race is tightening.
The Republican touched down for an hour Sunday afternoon at the Shenandoah Valley Regional Airport, just south of Harrisonburg, where he was greeted by a few hundred supporters and campaign volunteers.
Cuccinelli told the crowd that Obama’s presence in Virginia on Sunday helps their cause because it will ‘‘crystallize the focus of the message of this campaign around Obamacare.’’ He said that the new law has hurt Virginians who have seen their health care plans canceled or changed. He also said the law has crushed their liberties.
Cuccinelli called the president’s landmark legislation ‘‘the unaffordable care act’’ and told his supporters he was the first attorney general to challenge the law.
McAuliffe has repeatedly sought to tie Cuccinelli — an ideological ally to the Tea Party movement — to the Republican strategy that helped lead to the 16-day federal government shutdown. In Arlington, Obama made the same case.
‘‘If you embrace the very politics that led to this shutdown, then I guarantee you it’s not in the rearview mirror of voters in Virginia,’’ Obama said.