Biden Team Fears Damage From Virginia Loss

McAuliffe leads Youngkin, but Democrats worry about complacency
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 28, 2021 4:42 PM CDT
Updated Oct 2, 2021 11:30 AM CDT
Biden Team Fears Damage From Virginia Loss
Republican gubernatorial candidate Glenn Youngkin, right, speaks during a debate this month against former Gov. Terry McAuliffe.   (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

Worried about the implications for President Biden's agenda and the party, Democratic officials are going all in on Terry McAuliffe's candidacy for governor of Virginia. Biden's team and national party leaders are planning to become more involved in the campaign, Politico reports. With five weeks of campaigning to go, the pressure is building. "If Terry loses that's going to scare a lot of Democrats on the Hill," said Josh Schwerin, a Democratic strategist who's worked for McAuliffe. "It's going to make people worry about the midterms, and it's going to make it harder to pass the president’s agenda." If McAuliffe loses to Republican Glenn Youngkin, Schwerin said, "People are going to get skittish."

A Monmouth University Poll released Monday showed McAuliffe holding onto the 5-point lead he had last month, per the Hill. But other poll results have been closer, and Biden aides worry that a large number of undecided voters could give Youngkin a chance to make a race of it. And they worry about complacency among Democrats leading to low voter turnout, as they did before the California recall election that Gov. Gavin Newsom survived. It would help the party if Biden would post a few victories in Congress before the election. "Honestly, if they pass infrastructure and reconciliation, my comfort level of Terry winning goes up by a 1,000," one Democrat said.

Youngkin, a financier who has no political experience, hasn't necessarily been helped by the increased attention the close race has brought him, per Yahoo News. He's been endorsed by former President Trump, which gave McAuliffe a chance to call his opponent too extreme for a progressive state that has recently, for example, legalized cannabis and abolished the death penalty—the first state in the South to do so. When asked if he would have voted to certify Biden's election victory if he'd been in Congress, Youngkin wouldn't say. Later, he said he would have.

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Unlike McAuliffe, Youngkin hasn't much tried to tie their race to national candidates and issues. Other Republicans, however, see possibilities in pinning the Democratic candidate with the withdrawal from Afghanistan, rising prices, and the migrants' situation at the Texas border. "Republicans are angry and motivated, and independents are acting more like Republicans today than any time in the last year," said Phil Cox, a Republican political veteran. "I think we’ve got the best chance in more than a decade." If Youngkin wins, Schwerin sees fewer sweeping implications for Democrats than others do. "It's the climate," he said. (More Virginia stories.)

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