Terry McAuliffe: Biden is dragging me down in Virginia

AP Photo/Steve Helber

A leftover from Tuesday. We’re used to Clintonites like McAuliffe telling self-serving lies but this is more of a self-serving truth.

Is the president of the United States welcome on the campaign trail this month in Virginia, a state he won last year by 10 points? He appeared with McAuliffe at an event in Arlington in late July but that was before the debacle in Afghanistan, the resurgence of COVID, and the Democrats’ endless standoff over infrastructure in Congress. Poll after poll now shows independents turning on Biden.

So why would McAuliffe want to be seen with him in a state where independents are taking a hard look at business-minded Republican Glenn Youngkin?

Emerson dropped a new poll of Virginia yesterday that rocked the race, and not just because of the topline number. They have McAuliffe’s lead over Youngkin down to a single point, 49/48. That’s a bit of an outlier, as McAuliffe still leads by 2.5 points in the FiveThirtyEight average, but it affirmed what everyone now expects, that the chance of an upset is real and the final margin is apt to be tight. The number from Emerson that shook election-watchers was this:

McAuliffe leads with women 51% to 45%, while Youngkin leads with men 50% to 46%. McAuliffe also leads among Black voters (72% to 25%), while Youngkin leads among White voters (53% to 45%) and Hispanic voters (55% to 45%).

Jittery Democrats tried to reassure themselves last fall after Trump made gains with Hispanics that that was due to neglect by Biden, not real GOP progress within that demographic. If only Sleepy Joe and his team had been more aggressive in courting Latino voters, their margins with that group in states like Texas and Florida would have been larger. McAuliffe learned that lesson and has campaigned aggressively for Hispanic votes in Virginia — and yet, if Emerson is to be believed, he trails Youngkin anyway. By 10.

In 2013, when McAuliffe was first elected governor, he took 66 percent of the Latino vote. Per Politico, he was down to 58 percent in a Monmouth poll of Virginia a month ago and then dropped further to 53 percent in Monmouth’s most recent poll. Emerson had McAuliffe leading among Hispanics with 56 percent of the vote a month ago and now has him down to 45 percent. If those trends are real and he ends up losing the Latino vote to Youngkin next month, Democrats will have a full-on panic attack about demographic realignment.

So no, Joe Biden isn’t entirely responsible for McAuliffe’s trouble in Virginia. But he’s partly responsible. More from Emerson:

President Biden’s approval is underwater in the state he won by ten points in 2020, as he sits at 45% approval and 48% disapproval, with 8% neutral. When respondents were asked if Biden’s endorsement of McAuliffe made them more or less likely to support his candidacy, 22% said more likely, 39% said less likely, and 38% said it had no difference.

A poll taken in late August found Biden at 48/41 in Virginia. A few weeks later, a separate poll had him sliding to 46/51. That’s about where he stands in Emerson too, further evidence that his job approval isn’t rebounding following its summer swoon. He really is a drag on McAuliffe.

Enough so, in fact, that McAuliffe sounded Manchin-esque during his last debate with Youngkin about the scope of the Democrats’ infrastructure reconciliation mega-bill:

At Tuesday’s debate, McAuliffe appears to distance himself from his national party. When asked if he supports the $3.5 trillion spending package that the White House and congressional Democrats – who hold razor-thin majorities in both the House and Senate – are trying to pass along party lines using a parliamentary process known as reconciliation, McAuliffe said he thought the figure was “too high.”

But he urged Congress to pass the separate $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill. “They’ve got to stop their little chitty-chat up there, and it’s time for them to pass it,” the former governor emphasized.

He’s doing his best to bring those Biden-hating centrist independents back into the fold. But at the end of the day, he’s stuck with a stalemate in Washington.

You can understand why Pelosi is demanding a resolution to the infrastructure deadlock by October 31, then. The Virginia election will be held just two days later. If Democrats can’t get it together before then to give McAuliffe a legislative achievement to crow about and he ends up losing, the already nasty fingerpointing between progressives and centrists will turn even nastier. And it could create a doom loop in which Congress’s failure to act on infrastructure tanks McAuliffe, his defeat convinces Dem centrists that voters have turned on them, they try to compensate by scaling back the reconciliation framework, and the stalemate between the left and center deepens and turns more bitter. Hence why the GOP really, really wants Youngkin to win. It could wreck Biden’s entire agenda.