McAuliffe takes tougher stance on Democrats in Washington

Virginia gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffeTerry McAuliffeNortham announces final steps in clearing, ceding area where Lee monument stood Judges uphold GOP win for Virginia state House seat, cementing party control of chamber To empower parents, reinvent schools MORE (D) is taking a tougher line with Democrats in Washington as President BidenJoe BidenChina eyes military base on Africa's Atlantic coast: report Biden orders flags be flown at half-staff through Dec. 9 to honor Dole Biden heading to Kansas City to promote infrastructure package MORE’s poll numbers have dropped in recent months and his agenda has stalled.

This week, the former governor repeatedly called on Republicans and Democrats to come together amid haggling over the Democrats' mammoth reconciliation package, saying in a press call on Thursday he was “frustrated” over the process.

“I guess this is the difference as a governor,” McAuliffe said. “I’m very proud I got 70-plus percent of my bills passed from a Republican legislature.”

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“The inaction on Capitol Hill today is so damaging,” he continued. “Do your job. Quit talking. Quit preening around the press. Get in a room, figure out what has to get done and get it done.”

In an interview with The Associated Press earlier this week, the former governor also continued to urge Senate Democrats to get rid of the filibuster if the parliamentary tactic, which allows the minority party to block legislation that doesn’t get 60 voters, gets in the way of Democratic priorities such as the infrastructure bill and voter rights. 

McAuliffe’s words come amid poll numbers showing a tightening race between him and Republican Glenn YoungkinGlenn YoungkinNortham announces final steps in clearing, ceding area where Lee monument stood Judges uphold GOP win for Virginia state House seat, cementing party control of chamber Georgia becomes ground zero for 2022 elections MORE, who has seen gains with independent voters.

Some say McAuliffe's tougher approach toward Washington is a tacit sign that Democrats in the commonwealth are worried the dysfunction in the capital could drag them down in November's gubernatorial race.

“The issue is Virginians may be less enthusiastic about this election because they’re waiting for Washington to act,” said Virginia state Sen. Barbara Favola (D), whose district is in Washington-adjacent Northern Virginia.

Others say the statewide race does not hinge directly on whatever happens on Capitol Hill but say a Democratic victory certainly would not hurt.

“There’s lots and lots to run on. Virginia is in great shape,” said Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.), referring to McAuliffe and Gov. Ralph Northam’s records as Democratic governors. “It certainly is a better story to say look at what Democratic governance at the federal level can do.”

Beyer and Favola added that a victory for the White House and congressional Democrats would likely help rally Northern Virginia voters, a large constituency that leans Democratic and has ties to Washington.

Virginia Democrats say the state’s voters, like any other state, would stand to benefit greatly from the substance of Biden’s bipartisan infrastructure package, saying it would be a boon for job creation coming out of the pandemic while improving the nation’s aging infrastructure.

The package includes $550 billion in investments to U.S. infrastructure over the next five years, including $110 billion for roads, bridges and other infrastructure goals.

“This is a piece of legislation that has direct implications for Virginia,” said Rep. Abigail SpanbergerAbigail Davis SpanbergerWith Build Back Better, Dems aim to correct messaging missteps Sunday shows preview: New COVID-19 variant emerges; supply chain issues and inflation persist On The Money — Biden sticks with Powell despite pressure MORE (Va.), who was one of 11-swing district Democratic lawmakers to meet with Biden earlier this month to discuss the package. 

“Much of the federal legislation that we’re typically working on doesn’t necessarily have such an immediate impact,” she added.

However, Democrats on Capitol Hill are in a stalemate over the size of the $3.5 trillion plan to address social programs and climate change, which Democratic leaders originally hoped would pass alongside the infrastructure bill.

Polls show an increasingly tight race, with McAuliffe leading Youngkin, though well within the margin of error. On top of that, GOP enthusiasm in the commonwealth is up as both parties look to turn out their bases. A CBS News poll released this week showed feelings toward Biden driving 58 percent of Youngkin voters and 41 percent of McAuliffe voters.

An Emerson College survey released earlier this month showed Biden with a 45 percent approval rating and a 48 percent disapproval rating.

National Republicans have also taken notice of the race’s close polls and Biden’s approval ratings ticking down in the state.

“I do find it interesting in Virginia that Terry McAuliffe is distancing himself from Joe Biden,” said National Republican Campaign Committee Chairman Tom EmmerThomas (Tom) Earl EmmerGOP beginning to jockey for post-election leadership slots Sunday shows preview: New COVID-19 variant emerges; supply chain issues and inflation persist GOP blaming Democrats for 'chaos' in new ad MORE (R-Minn.) on Thursday. “Huh, probably makes sense.”

McAuliffe said earlier this week that Biden would be back to campaign with him before Election Day but did not provide any details.

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Both Beyer and Spanberger pushed back against the notion that Democratic enthusiasm was dangerously low, recounting recently packed campaign events for McAuliffe. Additionally, Democrats caution that the latest off year election in Virginia, which impacts the hype surrounding the race.

“It isn’t Donald Trump versus Joe Biden and the existential crisis of the future of humanity,” Beyer quipped.

But former President TrumpDonald TrumpBiden heading to Kansas City to promote infrastructure package Trump calls Milley a 'f---ing idiot' over Afghanistan withdrawal First rally for far-right French candidate Zemmour prompts protests, violence MORE, who lost Virginia in the last two presidential elections, has proved to be a motivating factor for Democrats in the race as well, something McAuliffe’s campaign has taken note of.

The same CBS News poll showed 53 percent of McAuliffe voters were motivated by Trump, while 49 percent of Youngkin voters said the same.

On top of that, the media conversation around the race took a turn this week after Trump called into a “Take Back Virginia” rally and praised Youngkin.

While Youngkin was never scheduled to attend the event, McAuliffe and his Democratic allies seized on news that rallygoers pledged allegiance to a flag that was flown at the Jan. 6 riot on Capitol Hill.

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McAuliffe swiftly called on Youngkin to disavow the action, and his campaign released a 30-second ad highlighting Trump’s call-in to the rally.

Youngkin addressed the rally twice yesterday, first telling reporters that rallygoers should not have pledged allegiance to the flag.

“I wasn’t involved, and so I don’t know,” Youngkin said. “But if that is the case, then we shouldn’t pledge allegiance to that flag. And, oh, by the way, I’ve been so clear, there is no place for violence — none, none — in America today.”

Youngkin then released a statement saying it was “weird and wrong to pledge allegiance to a flag connected to January 6,” and then hit McAuliffe for accepting the support of the abortion rights group NARAL, citing its support for defunding the police.

Prior to the rally, much of the conservation surrounding the race was on the tightening polls and Youngkin and his Republican allies leaning in on education-related issues.

“That rally probably makes the Trump-Youngkin case better than any ad Terry McAuliffe could run,” Beyer said.