“If they want to make sure Donald Trump is at the forefront for the presidential election again, then don’t show up to vote,” warned Chris Korge, chairman of national finance for the Democratic National Committee, who is close to McAuliffe. “It could be the ball game here.”
Stressing their seriousness, DNC Chairman Jaime Harrison and other officials touted the multi-million dollar investment the party has made in the state, as well as repeated visits from Biden, the first lady and the vice-president. “We’re all in it,” Harrison said ahead of a rally in Richmond for McAuliffe over the weekend. “Virginia is very important; we want to make sure we return the vote.
Biden’s all-in act is a break with his former boss, Barack Obama, whose team worked to distance themselves from the Democratic gubernatorial campaign in 2009 and, in 2013, spoke about the challenges of winning. Virginie given their control of the White House. Biden’s approach comes with obvious risks, offering Republicans one more measure to cheer on the White House’s reaction if Youngkin wins. Nevertheless, the president’s team and other party leaders have come to the conclusion that there is no other way.
On the one hand, there are too many parallels between Biden and McAuliffe. Both are establishment figures whose temperate views line up on virtually every major issue. They also concluded that to adequately fuel participation, Democrats must emphasize the existential issues of the race, something Obama himself reiterated in his speech for McAuliffe this weekend and which Biden proposed during the campaign. election this summer.
The White House and its partners are closely coordinating their efforts and have spoken with the McAuliffe campaign almost every day, with a Biden adviser telling POLITICO they think McAuliffe has performed well and is addressing the issues they considered to be the most. important to voters.
“We think Terry is running a strong campaign,” Biden’s adviser said, highlighting the contrasts he drew with Youngkin over Covid-19 and mandatory vaccination, as well as tying the Republican to the former President Donald Trump. “He’s doing all the right things.”
While the adviser initially admitted that tradition has it that the party in the White House generally loses the Virginia governor’s race, the person quickly noted that it was McAuliffe in 2013 who became the first candidate in decades to break. this trend.
Overall, Youngkin attempted to strike a delicate balance between Trump’s MAGA supporters and swing voters who fled the Virginia Republican Party in large numbers during Trump’s White House tenure. Youngkin has been backed by Trump on several occasions and accepted his support. But the former president did not appear in person to defend the candidate.
Youngkin has deflected questions about Trump hitting the stub for himself throughout the campaign, and he has avoided national surrogates in the final days, mocking McAuliffe for showcasing a long list of big names. But that’s not the only way he tries to thread the needle. One of the main issues Youngkin touched on in the primary was “the integrity of the elections,” but he also said Biden was duly elected. Youngkin encouraged everyone to get vaccinated, but he said the warrants instituted by the Biden administration were too important and that he didn’t believe Biden had the power to institute them.
Youngkin also bristles at Democrats’ almost relentless attempts to harness him to Trump. “There’s a number of times you’re going to say ‘Donald Trump’ tonight, and it was 10,” Youngkin retorted to McAuliffe during the second and final debate between the two men in late September. “And you just got out of it. You’re running against Glenn Youngkin.
Biden, in turn, was not an integral part of Youngkin’s campaign. He referred to the president on occasion, especially when he spoke about the Justice Department’s October memo warning of growing threats against school board members. The memo has elicited a major backlash from Youngkin and conservatives nationwide who describe it as the federal government not helping to protect officials at risk but limiting parents’ ability to petition them.
Youngkin also rejected Biden’s appearance in the state in a recent interview with Fox News. “If President Biden wants to come and campaign in Virginia, come on, spend all the time you want here,” he said, in remarks that echoed former GOP hopes. “You can’t help but look at President Biden and recognize what a failed presidency looks like.”
But Biden isn’t ubiquitous in Republican advertising, as he and other National Democrats are likely to be in the big races of 2022. No recent TV ads for Youngkin mention Biden by name, according to a search of transcripts from ad-tracking company AdImpact, and Youngkin’s last ad mentioning the president on Facebook was in May.
For these reasons, it’s possible that a McAuliffe loss might not fully bounce back on the agenda of the White House and Democrats, even if they raise the stakes in the race. Local education issues have been burning in Virginia at times, as much, if not more, than at the presidential level.
Biden’s own decision to raise the stakes in the race comes as Virginia occupies a much different place in Democrats’ minds than it had under Obama. The state is bluer, which has further convinced advisers and party leaders that a loss would be hard to dismiss as an isolated political moment, though Democratic panic over it will undoubtedly prove to be too tight. . Last year, Biden won the state handily, and Republicans haven’t won a statewide race in it for over a decade.
In the closing weeks of that 2009 contest, Obama advisers bitterly complained about Democrat R. Creigh Deeds, saying he had a bad run and didn’t hug the president enough. Obama officials insisted they had reason to absolve themselves of responsibility for the loss, which polls had shown it likely was before it happened. Senior officials in the Obama administration told reporters that Deeds had failed to coordinate with the White House, particularly around its strategy to help increase participation of black and younger voters. Obama was also the first Democrat since Lyndon Johnson to win the Commonwealth electoral votes, a victory he hoped would turn the political map for years to come.
Four years later, when Obama and the Democrats threw it all at Republican Ken Cuccinelli, they were much more optimistic about McAuliffe’s chances of winning. Still, Obama’s advisers had attempted to calibrate expectations by noting the headwinds he was facing, as reporting at the time focused on the difficult rollout of the Affordable Care Act. McAuliffe creaked, giving the Obama team the chance to publicly savor their support for Obamacare and criticize Cuccinelli’s staunch opposition to the law.
Biden’s short trip Tuesday night to Arlington comes amid poll numbers for the president of the state and country. In a recent Monmouth University poll, Biden’s job approval rating was well underwater: 43% approved of the job he was doing and 52% disapproved. But his numbers are still high among Democrats – 84% approved and 9% disapproved – and positive in Northern Virginia, where he has a preference of more than 10.
This is where Democrats want it in the final days, said Josh Schwerin, a Democratic strategist who worked as McAuliffe’s policy adviser and a former press secretary.
“Youngkin is trying to tell everyone that he doesn’t have a surrogate mother,” Schwerin said. “I’m really glad Biden is trying to raise the ante because we need voters to wake up. It raises the noise. “