Virginia gubernatorial candidates Northam and Gillespie debate last year. Photo: Steve Helber / AP

"The Democratic National Committee gathered [in Vegas] over the past week with one worry on every activist's mind: We'd better not lose the Virginia governor's race" 15 days from now, the WashPost's Dave Weigel and Ed O'Keefe write on A1.

Why it matters: "Defeat in Virginia could ... prompt another brawl between progressive activists and the party's establishment. Northam ... won his nomination over Sen. Bernie Sanders-backed former congressman Tom Perriello — a race that some activists saw as a replay of the 2016 Democratic presidential primaries."

More from the minds of Dems:

  • "It's a surprising case of the jitters over a place that hasn't elected a Republican to statewide office in eight years — and that voted resoundingly against Donald Trump last year. But nationally, Democrats haven't won a marquee race since losing the presidency. They lag Republicans in fundraising."
  • "A loss for Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam against Republican Ed Gillespie on Nov. 7 could stir doubts about message and strategy just as the party is gearing up nationally for next year's ... midterm elections."

Be smart: Axios' Mike Allen lives in Virginia and covered Old Dominion politics in his well-spent youth, so he hears a lot about this race. He says: "The Real Clear Politics average has Northam, the Democrat, ahead by 5.8 points. Most people I talk to in both parties assume he'll win: Gillespie is the underdog because Trump plays so poorly in 'vote-rich Northern Virginia.'"

  • But some Republicans who have been pessimistic are now more hopeful that there are silent pockets of Trump voters in rural areas who could make this more of a brawl than polls have suggested.

Go deeper

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Trump's Tucker mind-meld

Photo illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photo: Roy Rochlin/Getty Images and BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images

If you want to understand the rhetorical roots of Trump's Independence Day speech at Mount Rushmore, go back and watch Tucker Carlson's monologues for the past six weeks.

Between the lines: Trump — or rather his speechwriter Stephen Miller — framed the president's opposition to the Black Lives Matter protest movement using the same imagery Carlson has been laying out night after night on Fox.

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Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 6 p.m. ET: 11,366,145 — Total deaths: 532,644 — Total recoveries — 6,154,138Map.
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  3. States: Photos of America's pandemic July 4 ICU beds in Arizona hot spot near capacity — Houston mayor warns about hospitals
  4. Public health: U.S. coronavirus infections hit record highs for 3 straight days.
  5. Politics: Former Trump official Tom Bossert says face masks “are not enough”
  6. World: Mexican leaders call for tighter border control as infections rise in U.S.
  7. Sports: Sports return stalked by coronavirus
  8. 1 📽 thing: Drive-in movie theaters are making a comeback.

Bolton's hidden aftershocks

Photo illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

The news media has largely moved on, but foreign government officials remain fixated on John Bolton's memoir, "The Room Where It Happened."

Why it matters: Bolton's detailed inside-the-Oval revelations have raised the blood pressure of allies who were already stressed about President Trump's unreliability.