Gillespie ahead by 3 points in new Virginia poll
© Greg Nash

Republican Ed Gillespie is now narrowly leading the Virginia gubernatorial race by 3 points, according to a new poll, just three days before Tuesday's election. 

The new poll of likely Virginia voters by Republican firm Optimus/Firehouse Strategies over Wednesday and Thursday shows Gillespie leading his Democratic opponent Ralph Northam by 40.4 percent to 37.4 percent. His lead is just outside the poll's margin of error.

Recent polls have suggested a late-game comeback for Gillespie, who trailed Northam by a small margin for recent months of the race, with a Friday poll showing the two locked in a dead heat at 47 percent apiece. 

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However, Northam is predicted to win by a 1.5 point margin if voter turnout mirrors 2016 levels, the poll said, citing "volatile" party composition. The poll used a model based on 2013 voter turnout to predict a Gillespie win.  

An average of major polls still shows Northam with a slight lead of 1.2 points, which marks a steep decline over recent weeks from averages favoring the Democrat by over 3 points. 

The contentious Virginia election has invited the support of national political figures such as former Presidents Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaBooker dismisses early surveys: 'If you're polling ahead right now, you should worry' Let's not play Charlie Brown to Iran's Lucy Mattis dodges toughest question MORE and George W. Bush, each stumping and fundraising for their party's nominees. 

Democrats have unleashed a series of biting attack ads against Gillespie, linking him to President Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpTed Cruz knocks New York Times for 'stunning' correction on Kavanaugh report US service member killed in Afghanistan Pro-Trump website edited British reality star's picture to show him wearing Trump hat MORE and bashing him for his response to the violent white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Va., in August.

Northam has also received criticism among party members and progressive voter groups for his break with party rhetoric on so-called sanctuary cities, which do not comply with federal immigration laws, saying he would sign legislation banning them "if that bill comes to my desk." 

The Optimus survey interviewed 1,600 Virginians based on voter history, with a margin of error of plus or minus 2.4 percentage points.