ARLINGTON, VA (AP) – President Joe Biden presented the Virginia governor’s race as a rejection of his predecessor, tying the Republican nominee to former President Donald Trump as he campaigned for Democrat Terry McAuliffe in a campaign that is getting tough and increasingly fierce.
No Republican has taken office in Virginia since 2009, and Biden got a comfortable 10 percentage points in 2020. However, polls showed that McAuliffe was tied to former Republican business executive Glenn Youngkin in an election due in a week, and the president himself is highly popular. on the decline.
In the final days of the race, both candidates are focused on rejecting their core supporters, with Republicans pushing for culture war issues, sparking debate over a book ban in high school classes, and McAuliffe, who previously served as governor from 2014 to 2018. beats up Yangkin for his ties to Trump.
Biden brought the topic home during a Tuesday night rally in Arlington, across the Potomac River from Washington, mentioning the former president by name more often than Yangkin and drawing a straight line from last year’s presidential race to next Tuesday’s election.
“I opposed Donald Trump, and Terry opposed Donald Trump’s aide,” Biden said.
He stated that Youngkin “not only accepts some of the significant character flaws, but also supports Donald Trump’s bad ideas and bad reputation.”
Meanwhile, McAuliffe told the same congregation that Youngkin “ends his campaign the way he started it: a controversial dog whistle.”
“We have a choice: a path that fosters conspiracy, hatred, division, or a path that lifts everyone in Virginia,” McAuliffe said.
McAuliffe’s defeat – or perhaps even a small victory – will be an ominous sign for Democrats, who are likely to face tough political problems in next year’s midterm elections when their tight control of the House and Senate is at stake. The winning party in the White House will historically lose congressional seats in the next election, and Virginia, the major year-to-year race in this cycle, is seen as a key test of whether Democrats can move quickly in 2022.
However, it is unclear how much help Biden will offer McAuliffe. The president has seen the percentage of Americans approving of his work plummet following the chaotic US withdrawal from Afghanistan and amid an economy that is far from full recovery as the country continues to grapple with the coronavirus pandemic.
Biden defended his record on Tuesday night, rephrasing some of his old arguments with Trump. He said that while Trump orchestrated the American job cuts, the Biden administration watched a surge in jobs and praised the strength of the stock market on his watch – a nod to one of Trump’s favorite indicators of success.
And Biden has touted aspects of his proposals for spending on infrastructure and social services, linking his plans to the need to win next week’s election.
“We’re on the right track, but we still have to do,” Biden said.
Yangkin’s campaign ran an ad featuring a mother who, many years ago, pushed for a ban on the sale of The Beloved in classrooms in the suburbs of Washington. The famous 1987 Nobel laureate Toni Morrison novel follows an escaped slave girl who kills her young daughter instead of letting her return to the plantation.
Mother’s protection led McAuliffe to veto state legislation in 2016 and 2017 that allowed parents to opt out of sexually explicit learning materials for their children.
McAuliffe’s campaign and fellow Democrats criticized Yangkin’s ad and accused him of trying to “silence” black authors.
McAuliffe’s campaign highlighted divisions during his rally by handing out copies of The Beloved to reporters, and McAuliffe slapped Youngkin for it.
“He wants to bring his personal culture wars into our classes,” he said. “Guys, we won’t let Glenn Youngkin bring his hate, his chaos, into our schools in Virginia.”
Youngkin made parental protection in the classroom a centerpiece of his governor’s campaign, and his campaign responded by noting that the vetoed bills were passed by McAuliffe with Democratic backing. It said that in accusing Yangkin of racial politics, McAuliffe was actually making the same accusation against his party.
The problem flared up before Biden reached out to more than 1,000 people who rejoiced and shivered in the strong winds on football fields in a park in Arlington, a long-safe blue territory. Other, nearby areas of Washington’s fast-growing suburbs have moved Virginia from a former wavering state to a more securely democratic state — especially as its populations of blacks, Hispanics, and Asians increased.
A small group of protesters, one of whom hoisted a large “Trump won” flag, gathered nearby and chanted briefly “Come on, Brandon,” a euphemism for anti-Biden vulgarity that has become popular on conservative social media.
Ebony Gudson, 23, an independent voter who works for a technology company and lives across the street, headed to the rally to learn more about the governors’ race, which she said she had only recently begun to follow closely.
“I think the president’s support will increase voter turnout and just delight everyone,” Gudson said, adding that she would like to know more about the race “than what I saw on TV.”
Republican National Committee chair Ronna McDaniel said Youngkin “ensures that every Virginian has a say in their child’s education.”
“With unprecedented Republican enthusiasm, the Virginians are ready to reject Terry McAuliffe and Joe Biden,” McDaniel said in a statement.
Biden made his second trip to Arlington since McAuliffe announced his governor’s proposal. He is the latest in the Democratic Star Parade to flood the state in hopes of setting fire to the party’s base.
The president follows former President Barack Obama, Democratic National Committee chairman Jaime Harrison, former Georgia governor candidate Stacy Abrams, Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms and First Lady Jill Biden.
Vice President Kamala Harris will campaign for McAuliffe on Friday, her second stop in weeks. Last week in Dumfries, about 30 miles south of Washington, Harris called the race “tense” and warned against Democratic complacency.
Youngkin campaigned in Clarksville and Danville, near the Virginia-North Carolina border, on Tuesday, as part of a 50-stop bus tour. Unlike McAuliffe, Youngkin, a former top manager at the private equity firm Carlyle Group, has largely shied away from outside aid from members of the National Party, although Trump backed him.
“It’s not a campaign anymore,” Youngkin said in a recent visit to the Richmond suburb. “This is movement.”
Associated Press author Sarah Rankin of Richmond, Virginia contributed to this report.