Former Carlyle Group CEO could knock Democrats out of Virginia's governor's office. Here's what to know
Without any other big races this fall, all eyes are on Virginia as Democrats try to weather a decline in President Joe Biden's approval ratings.Former Gov. Terry McAuliffe, a Democrat, and Republican Glenn Youngkin, are polling neck-and-neck in the commonwealth's gubernatorial race.
ARLINGTON, Va. (AP) — President Joe Biden framed the Virginia governor’s race as a repudiation of his predecessor, tying the Republican candidate to former President Donald Trump as he campaigned for Democrat Terry McAuliffe in what's become a tight and increasingly bitter campaign. © Provided by Associated Press President Joe Biden speaks with Democratic gubernatorial candidate, former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe during a rally Tuesday, Oct. 26, 2021, in Arlington, Va. McAuliffe will face Republican Glenn Youngkin in the November election. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon) © Provided by Associated Press President Joe Biden speaks at a rally for Democratic gubernatorial candidate, former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, Tuesday, Oct. 26, 2021, in Arlington, Va. McAuliffe will face Republican Glenn Youngkin in the November election. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
No Republican has won statewide office in Virginia since 2009, and Biden carried it by a comfortable 10 percentage points in 2020. Yet polls have shown McAuliffe tied with Republican former business executive Glenn Youngkin with the election a week away — and the president's own popularity is on the decline.
McAuliffe's backslapping political brand put to test in 2021
NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (AP) — Terry McAuliffe is a blur of handshakes, hugs, backslaps and smiles as he glides through the friendly crowd at Gethsemane Baptist Church seeking help from above. For the former Virginia governor running again for his old job, it's not necessarily God's grace he's after at this moment. He's seeking assistance from another higher power a few hours north in Washington, where McAuliffe's longtime friends in Congress are struggling to pass an infrastructure package that could help millions of Virginia residents — and his own campaign. © Provided by Associated Press FILE - In this Oct.
© Provided by Associated Press President Joe Biden speaks at a rally for Democratic gubernatorial candidate, former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, Tuesday, Oct. 26, 2021, in Arlington, Va. McAuliffe will face Republican Glenn Youngkin in the November election. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
In the final days of the race, both candidates are focused on turning out their base supporters, with Republicans pressing culture war issues — prompting a debate over banning books in high school classrooms — and McAuliffe, who previously served as governor from 2014 to 2018, hammering Youngkin for his ties to Trump.
Biden drove that theme home during a Tuesday night rally in Arlington, just across the Potomac River from Washington, mentioning the former president by name more frequently than Youngkin and drawing a direct line from last year's presidential race to next Tuesday's election.
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“I ran against Donald Trump and Terry is running against an acolyte of Donald Trump," Biden said.
He charged that Youngkin “not only embraces some of the essential lack of character, he endorses Donald Trump's bad ideas and bad record."
McAuliffe, meanwhile, told the same gathering that Youngkin “is ending his campaign the way he started it: With divisive dog whistles."
“We have a choice: A path that promotes conspiracies, hate, division, or a path focused on lifting up every single Virginian,” McAuliffe said.
A loss by McAuliffe — or perhaps even a narrow victory — would be an ominous sign for Democrats already likely facing stiff political headwinds in next year's midterm elections, when their narrow control of the House and Senate will be on the line. The party that wins the White House historically losses congressional seats in the next election, and Virginia, this cycle's top off-year race, is seen as a key test of whether Democrats can head into 2022 with momentum.
Number of joint Biden-Harris appearances plummets: Report
Joe Biden and Kamala Harris appeared together publicly 18 times in February after rising to the White House on a promise to be a partnership. But in October they only had one joint press event.When Biden picked Harris to be the first female and woman of color to be vice president he strongly indicated she would be an equal partner in his administration.
© Provided by Associated Press Democratic gubernatorial candidate former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe speaks during a rally Tuesday, Oct. 26, 2021, in Arlington, Va. McAuliffe will face Republican Glenn Youngkin in the November election. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
How much help Biden will offer McAuliffe is unclear, though. The president has seen the percentage of Americans approving of his job performance fall after the chaotic U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, and amid an economy that remains far from fully healed as the nation continues to struggle with the coronavirus pandemic.
Biden defended his record Tuesday night, rehashing some of his old arguments with Trump. He said that while Trump presided over a loss of American jobs, the Biden administration has overseen a surge in job creation, and also touted the strength of the stock market on his watch — a nod to one of Trump's favored metrics for success.
And Biden touted aspects of his infrastructure and social services spending proposals, tying his plans to the need to win next week's elections.
Presidents and popes over the years: Gifts, gaffes, grief
WASHINGTON (AP) — When President Joe Biden meets with Pope Francis on Friday, he won’t kiss the ring. Biden, who has met with Francis three times and with two previous popes, has said he eschews the traditional sign of respect because his mother told him not to — that no one is “better” than him. In their meeting, the two are expected to discuss issues like the COVID-19 pandemic and climate change as equals. Biden, only the second Catholic president in U.S. history, often speaks publicly about his faith and attends Mass every weekend.
“We're on the right track, but we've got more to do," Biden said.
Youngkin's campaign released an ad featuring a mother who years ago sought to have the book “Beloved” banned from classrooms in suburban Washington. The acclaimed 1987 novel by Nobel laureate Toni Morrison is about an escaped slave who kills her infant daughter rather than allowing the girl to be returned to the plantation.
The mother's advocacy led to state legislation McAuliffe vetoed in 2016 and 2017 that would have let parents opt out of having their children study classroom materials with sexually explicit content.
McAuliffe’s campaign and fellow Democrats blasted Youngkin’s ad and accused him of trying to “silence” Black authors.
McAuliffe's campaign highlighted the controversy during his rally by passing out copies of “Beloved” to reporters, and McAuliffe hammered Youngkin for it.
“He wants to bring his personal culture wars into our classrooms," he said. “Folks, we will not allow Glenn Youngkin to bring his hate, his chaos, into our Virginia schools.”
Youngkin has made defending “parental rights” in school classrooms a centerpiece of his gubernatorial run, and his campaign responded by noting that the bills McAuliffe vetoed had passed with Democratic support. It said that by accusing Youngkin of playing racial politics, McAuliffe was effectively leveling the same charge at his own party.
Joe Biden vs. Donald Trump: The other Virginia governor's race
Two presidents, Joe Biden and Donald Trump, play outsized roles in a Virginia governor's race that could be a barometer for the 2022 midterms.For Democratic candidate Terry McAuliffe and his supporters, it's about Donald Trump, the unpopular ex-president McAuliffe constantly links to Republican rival Glenn Youngkin.
That issue flared up before Biden addressed more than 1,000 people who cheered and shivered against stiff winds on soccer fields in a park in Arlington, long safely blue territory. Other, nearby parts of the fast-growing Washington suburbs have moved Virginia from a onetime swing state to more reliably Democratic — especially as their populations of Black, Hispanic and Asian residents have increased.
A small group of protesters, one hoisting a large “Trump Won” flag, gathered nearby and briefly chanted “Let's Go Brandon,” a euphemism for a vulgarity against Biden that has become popular on conservative social media sites.
Ebonie Gadson, 23, an independent voter who works for a tech company and lives across the street, headed to rally to learn more about a governor's race she said she only recently began closely following.
“Having the president's support, I think, will increase voter turnout and just get everyone excited,” said Gadson, who added that she wanted to learn more about the race “than just what I'd seen on TV.”
Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel said Youngkin is “ensuring every Virginian has a say in their child’s education.”
“With an unprecedented amount of Republican enthusiasm, Virginians are ready to reject Terry McAuliffe and Joe Biden,” McDaniel said in a statement.
Biden made his second trip to Arlington since McAuliffe launched his gubernatorial bid. He's the latest in a parade of Democratic stars to flood the state, hoping to fire up the party's base.
Virginia election 2021 goes down to the wire
Democrat Terry McAuliffe seeks another term as Virginia's governor, but the mood of voters has soured a year after President Joe Biden was elected and Republican Glenn Youngkin hopes to pull off an upset as he targets the state's suburban voters.For months, McAuliffe has tried to energize Democratic voters by painting his opponent, Republican Glenn Youngkin, as a Donald Trump "wannabee," who would reverse progressive gains in a state that the former President lost by 10 points last year. Youngkin has accepted Trump's endorsement but skillfully kept his distance while centering his campaign on local issues like education and trying to portray himself as an advocate for parents.
The president follows former President Barack Obama, Democratic National Committee Chairman Jaime Harrison, former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey 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 as many weeks. In Dumfries, about 30 miles south of Washington last week, Harris called the race “tight” and warned against Democratic complacency.
Youngkin campaigned in Clarksville and Danville, not far from the Virginia-North Carolina border, on Tuesday, part of a 50-stop bus tour. In contrast to McAuliffe, Youngkin, a former top executive at the private equity firm the Carlyle Group, has largely shied away from outside help from national party members, though he has been endorsed by Trump.
“This is no longer a campaign,” Youngkin said as he visited suburban Richmond recently. "This is a movement.”
Associated Press writer Sarah Rankin in Richmond, Virginia, contributed to this report.
Can Joe Biden Save His Presidency? .
With his domestic agenda at risk of failure and the prospect rising of a Democratic drubbing in the midterms, Biden needs to act swiftly to rescue his term.Even as Biden announced the terms last week of a $1.75 trillion framework to salvage his signature "Build Back Better" legislation—cut in half from the bill's original $3.5 trillion price tag—his approval rating was taking a beating. The latest Real Clear Politics average has just 42 percent of Americans approving of the job Biden has done so far, while 52 percent disapprove; that represents a sharp downturn over the past two months and a nearly 14-point drop overall from his post-inauguration peak of close to 56 percent.