US President Joe Biden on Tuesday threw his weight behind the struggling Democratic candidate in Virginia’s closely watched election for governor, urging a crowd to defeat Republican “extremism.”
Standing by Terry McAuliffe, whose slide in the polls has put Democrats on red alert for a wider Republican comeback in next year’s midterm battle for Congress, Biden mocked the Republican opponent as an “acolyte of Donald Trump.”
“You’ve had the courage and the wisdom to reject the extremism that has taken over the Republican Party all across America,” Biden told the crowd in Arlington, a Virginia city in the Democrat-heavy suburbs of Washington, DC.
“Today’s Republican Party stands for nothing but just keep cutting taxes for the wealthy and the most powerful corporations.”
On paper, McAuliffe, 64, should have a relatively easy run in a week’s time against Republican Glenn Youngkin.
Already a former Virginia governor and seeking to succeed the outgoing Democrat, McAuliffe is the closest thing to an incumbent in a state where Biden trounced Trump in the presidential election 12 months ago.
Instead, Youngkin is tied with McAuliffe in the polls, eying an upset victory on November 2 that would energize his party’s push to regain control of Congress in the 2022 midterms.
Worried, Democrats are deploying all their big guns.
Popular former president Barack Obama has already campaigned for McAuliffe and Vice President Kamala Harris is headed to Virginia on Friday.
“Vote, vote, vote,” Biden said. “Show up for democracy, for Virginia, for the United States of America.”
Part of the problem for the Democrats in Virginia and across the country is simply cyclical. They can expect to lose Congress in next year’s midterms because that is almost always what happens to the party of the sitting president.
But the other problem is that Biden himself is no longer popular.
Although Biden beat Trump by 10 percentage points in the 2020 election in Virginia, Democratic enthusiasm has slipped and Biden is struggling with the Covid-19 pandemic and the difficulties of a Congress where his party is only barely in the majority.
The latest Gallup approval rating of just 42 percent nationally makes Biden the most unpopular president ever at this stage in an administration — except for Trump.
– Game changer? –
Still, the White House hopes that Biden’s divided party will come to a deal in Congress on authorizing trillions of dollars in public spending — a game-changer just in time for election day.
“We are going to get those things done,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki told reporters Tuesday.
Congress, where the Democrats control the Senate by one vote and the House by only a handful, has been haggling for months over Biden’s ambitious attempt to rebuild US infrastructure and social support networks.
The $1.2 trillion bill would revamp America’s crumbling roads and bridges.
A second package that would pour even more money into education, childcare and other social issues is under fierce debate. Biden’s initial $3.5 trillion price tag is being whittled down to something likely to be under $2 trillion.
Psaki said the messy negotiations reflect “the realities of governing” but insisted that Democrats should not be disheartened when they go to the polls.
“These are all components of what the president ran on and what we promised and they all would make a huge impact on people’s lives across the country,” she said.
“So do you want to be a part of that or do you want to be a part of nothing? Because these are the alternatives.”
by Nicholas Kamm with Sebastian Smith in Washington