Biden flexes presidential muscle on campaign trail with Virginia’s McAuliffe

President Biden and Virginia Democratic gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe leave the stage after speaking to supporters at a grassroots campaign event at Lubber Run Park in Arlington, Va., on Friday, July 23, 2021.
Greg Nash

ARLINGTON, Va. — President Biden on Friday hit the campaign trail for the first time as a sitting president, stumping for gubernatorial nominee and former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D).

Biden used the rally — which featured Democratic candidates up and down the ticket in Virginia’s elections this year — to tout McAuliffe’s record as governor, as well as his own six-month record as president. 

“In these off-year elections, the country is looking. This is a big deal,” the president told a crowd of just under 3,000. 

Biden notably took the opportunity to echo McAuliffe and his Democratic allies in Virginia by tying Republican nominee Glenn Youngkin to former President Trump. 

“I whipped Donald Trump in Virginia and so will Terry,” Biden quipped, calling Youngkin “an acolyte to Trump.”

Trump lost Virginia in 2016 and 2020, struggling particularly with the commonwealth’s suburban voters. 

McAuliffe and Virginia Democrats have made it a priority to tie Youngkin to Trump due to the former president’s deep unpopularity in the state. 

“My opponent Glenn Youngkin, well, he’s not running for you, he’s running for — ” McAuliffe said before the crowd responded with “Donald Trump.” 

Biden touted his administration’s initiatives during the 28-minute address, touching on federal vaccination efforts, the American Rescue Plan and efforts to pass an infrastructure package through Congress. 

A small group of hecklers attempted to interrupt Biden during his address before they were shouted down by the crowd of attendees. 

“This is not a Trump rally. Let ’em holler. No one’s paying attention,” Biden said. 

The rally also featured other notable Virginia Democrats, including Rep. Don Beyer, Gov. Ralph Northam, Democratic lieutenant governor nominee Hala Ayala and Attorney General Mark Herring. 

Biden and McAuliffe have been friends for over 40 years and have a history of campaigning together. The president told the former governor that he was “all-in” for him after McAuliffe swept the Democratic gubernatorial primary. 

McAuliffe formally endorsed Biden last year after the then-presidential candidate won the South Carolina primary. The former governor then campaigned with Biden ahead of the Super Tuesday contest in Virginia.

Friday’s rally could prove to be a test for Biden as he prepares to campaign with Democrats across the country ahead of next year’s midterm elections, which will be his first as president, though the party of a first-term president historically loses during the midterms. 

“In this election and in 2022, the question the American people are going to be asking is whether or not we’re helping them and their families,” Biden said. “We have to show we do understand, and we’re delivering for them, and we’re keeping our promises. We just have to keep making the case just as the Republican Party today offers nothing but fear, lies and broken promises.” 

Polls show a tight race emerging in Virginia with McAuliffe leading Youngkin by single digits. The Cook Political Report moved the race from “likely Democratic” to “lean Democratic” last month. 

A Republican hasn’t won a statewide race in Virginia since 2009, when former Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) was elected. Youngkin will have to balance turning out the pro-Trump, conservative base in the southern and rural parts of the state while appealing to moderate and swing voters in the Northern Virginia and Richmond areas. 

Youngkin’s campaign released a statement ahead of the rally this week, saying the joint appearance with Biden was a call for help. 

“Terry McAuliffe must be worried about his terrible poll numbers if he’s already calling in political favors this early in the campaign,” said Youngkin’s spokeswoman Macaulay Porter. “We’ll expect he’ll bring his mentors Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton here soon too, just like he did the first two times he ran for governor.”

Tags 2022 midterm elections Bill Clinton Donald Trump Hillary Clinton Joe Biden Joe Biden Terry McAuliffe

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