Joe Biden traveled about four miles from the White House Tuesday night to campaign for Terry McAuliffe in Arlington, Virginia. During the campaign rally at a park, Biden delivered a speech that lasted for 15 minutes and invoked the name of Donald Trump 24 times.
It is unusual for a president to campaign for a candidate during the first year of his administration. The fact that Joe Biden is campaigning for Terry McAuliffe tells us that the Democrats are acknowledging that their candidate is in trouble. It wasn’t the first appearance by Biden for McAuliffe. He also spoke on behalf of McAuliffe at a rally in July. The notable part of this story is that Joe Biden is still so Trump-deranged after nine months into his term as president that he mentioned Trump’s name so often. That’s just weird.
Trump is the boogeyman for Democrats, we know that. But typically a person speaking in favor of a political candidate will concentrate on singing that candidate’s praises, listing accomplishments, talking about what a great person the candidate is but Biden mentioned Trump’s name more than once a minute in his speech. McAuliffe isn’t running against Trump but you wouldn’t know that. Biden was doing what the other big-name Democrats brought in by the McAuliffe campaign have done – paint Glenn Youngkin as Trump in khakis and a fleece vest.
“How well do you know Terry’s opponent?” Mr. Biden asked during the rally on a cold autumn night. “Well, just remember this. I ran against Donald Trump. And Terry is running against an acolyte of Donald Trump.”
Biden poked Youngkin for not appearing with Trump on the campaign trail. “Is he embarrassed?”
“[Youngkin] doesn’t like to talk about it very much now, but to win the Republican nomination, he embraced Donald Trump,” he continued.
The former president went on to question why Youngkin and Trump have not appeared together on the campaign trailing, asking “is he embarrassed?”
Biden called both of the Republicans extreme, but took a particular shot at Youngkin saying extremism “can come in a smile and a fleece vest.”
The obsession with the fleece vest is weird, too. Obama mentioned it and Biden, not known for original thoughts, also mentioned it. It brings back memories of Lamar Alexander’s plaid shirts or Rick Santorum’s sweater vests. Both candidates used the apparel to their advantage when opponents began to mock them. I didn’t find a fleece vest on his campaign website for sale with t-shirts and other items. He could have probably sold some.
Trump endorsed Youngkin but hasn’t been campaigning for him. If he did, though, the turnout for Youngkin would likely be bigger than the one for McAuliffe – Biden’s appearance only turned out about 2,500 people. Biden doesn’t draw big crowds. Using Biden as a rally speaker may backfire. His poll numbers continue to crater and Independents are moving to Youngkin. The latest polls show the race in a tie. Considering that Biden won Virginia by 10 points over Trump in 2020, that’s not good news for Democrats. Virginia is a deep blue state and it’s a shock that McAuliffe has to compete so hard against a Republican political newcomer. For an experienced fundraiser and former governor, McAuliffe has made some big missteps during the campaign that have fired-up voters against him and toward Youngkin. His remarks about parental participation in the school system, for example, turned out to be a scorching hot button issue. He’s the father of five children, he should know that parents consider their children’s education as a top priority.
Biden touted his success with the economy during his speech. How much of a bubble dweller is he? In recent polling, only 26% consider Biden’s performance with the economy to be excellent or good, while 73% consider it fair or poor. Biden told the crowd that McAuliffe would be a good economic leader for Virginia.
McAuliffe said, “I’m an uniter. Glenn Youngkin is a divider.” That’s pretty standard rhetoric on the campaign trail these days. Biden ran on uniting the country yet he’s done no such thing. There is no reason to think McAuliffe, a hyper-partisan Democrat, would unite Virginians. A victory by Youngkin will unite Republicans and conservative-leaning Independents, though. While Biden and McAuliffe continue to dwell on the past, and Trump specifically, voters look to the future when they go to the polling place. McAuliffe doesn’t offer any new ideas, just attacks on Republicans.
This is seen as a make-or-break election for Democrats. If Youngkin wins in a deep blue state, that is very good news for Republicans heading into the 2022 midterm elections. History may bode well for Youngkin.
Virginia, which holds off-year elections along with New Jersey, typically serves as a political barometer ahead of the midterm elections. Democrats hold a narrow majority in the House, and the Senate is split 50-50 but controlled by the party because of Vice President Kamala Harris’s tiebreaker vote.
The party not holding the White House has won every Virginia governor’s race since 1977, with the exception of Mr. McAuliffe’s victory in 2013.
It’s going to take more than Biden, Obama, and McAuliffe shouting “Trump!” at campaign rallies for McAuliffe to win this election. Momentum is on Youngkin’s side with just a few days left to election day.