by Jeff Mason and Steve Holland | Reuters
Arlington, Va. – President Joe Biden tested his political might in the state of Virginia on Friday in a campaign stop for Democratic gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe, who Biden said was running against a “retainer” of former President Donald Trump.
The off-year state race could be a sign of Democrats’ strength or weakness ahead of the 2022 midterm congressional elections, as well as a test of the political might of the president and his Republican predecessor.
Democrats hope to take control of the US House of Representatives, in which they have a low majority, and the Senate, which has a 50-50 split, next year, while Republicans hope to take over the leadership of both houses.
Biden traveled a short distance from Washington to a park in Arlington, Virginia, to host McAuliffe, a long-term fixture in Democratic politics running for a second term as Virginia’s governor in the November election.
“Terry and I share a lot. I ran against Donald Trump and Terry,” Biden said. “I whipped Donald Trump in Virginia and Terry too.”
Trump lost Virginia in both 2016 and 2020.
McAuliffe’s rival in the running for governor is Virginia businessman Glenn Youngkin, a Republican who has been endorsed by Trump. “The person Terry is running against is actually Donald Trump’s acolyte,” Biden said. “I don’t know where these people come from.”
A poll released earlier this month by the Trafalgar Group said the race was tight, with 46.8% support for McAuliffe and 45% for Youngkin. In recent years Virginia has been trending Democratic based on overwhelming support from the northern part of the state. Biden won the state in 2020.
“Terry McAuliffe should be concerned about his terrible polling numbers if he’s already calling on the political side in the campaign,” said Youngkin spokesman Macaulay Porter.
Biden began his remarks by lashing out at some conservatives who have recently begun recommending vaccination against COVID-19.
“Some of our very conservative friends have an altar call. They have seen God,” he quipped.
The Virginia race can be seen as a referendum on Biden’s first year in office and a test of strength for the Democratic president. The party that holds the White House usually loses seats in Congress in the first midterm election after the new president takes office.
McAuliffe eagerly sought to include Trump in the race. McAuliffe said of Youngkin: “He’s not running for you. He’s running for Donald Trump.”
McAuliffe, who has raised millions of dollars for Democratic candidates and was a close ally of then-President Bill Clinton, is running four years after ending his first term. State law prohibits the governor from running for re-election.