Henrico, VA — First lady Jill Biden hit the campaign trail on Friday for Virginia Democrat Terry McAuliffe, whose race for governor against Republican Glenn Youngkin appears tight with less than three weeks until Election Day.
“Virginia needs someone who will work toward progress, not refight the battles of our past. Virginia, you need somebody that you can trust,” the first lady said, praising McAuliffe’s track record when he served as governor from 2013 to 2017.
“This race is about the next chapter of Virginia and our country,” said McAuliffe, who spoke about the economy, public education, COVID vaccines, voting and abortion rights on Friday night.
The latest CBS News polling released this week shows McAuliffe leading Youngkin by just three points among likely voters, 50% to 47%, within the margin of error. McAuliffe leads Youngkin among likely voters on who would do better with COVID vaccines. But Youngkin, a former business executive, led McAuliffe in CBS News polling among voters who said the state’s economy is a major factor in their vote, and when asked which candidate’s policies would create more jobs in the states.
The race could set off concerns for Democrats ahead of the midterms should a Republican win statewide for the first time in more than a decade. It comes as Democrats’ plans in Washington have stalled in recent weeks.
It’s unclear when President Biden could head back to campaign in Virginia. He campaigned for McAuliffe in July, but his approval rating has taken a hit in recent months amid a series of crises and a surge in COVID-19 cases due to the Delta variant.
“We’re going to do everything we can to help former Governor McAuliffe, and we believe in the agenda he’s representing,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said on Thursday.
McAuliffe has been critical of the recent congressional gridlock that has slowed the passage of the infrastructure bill.
“I want people on Capitol Hill to get things done,” McAuliffe told reporters on Thursday. “I am frustrated that we do have a bill for infrastructure which literally will bring billions of dollars – I’ll get $7 billion here in Virginia just for highway construction – billions more for bridges and so forth, and I’m frustrated that a bill passed the Senate two months ago with 69 votes, and we can’t get a vote out of the House.”
Some of the Virginia voters who gathered Friday to hear McAuliffe speak shared his frustration.
“I am disgusted with the West Virginia senator [Joe Manchin], I’m also disgusted with [Senator Kyrsten] Sinema. I wish the Democrats could stick together,” said Rosalyn Gibson, who is supporting McAuliffe. “I wish they didn’t have to solely depend on the Democrats to pull it through. I wish there were more Republicans who had courage to stand up to Mitch McConnell and vote with their hearts.”
“It takes more than just Democrats,” said Warlisha Whisonant, who is still undecided. She said her main interest in attending the event Friday was to hear McAuliffe’s platform when it comes to jobs.
As McAuliffe campaigns on economic and education policies aligned with the Biden agenda such as paid leave, spending on public schools and teachers and raising the minimum wage, his campaign is looking to also tie his opponent as closely as possible to former President Donald Trump.
Recent polling by Fox News showed Trump has a worse approval rating in Virginia than McAuliffe, Biden, Youngkin and current Democratic governor Ralph Northam. The former president had a favorable view among 44% of likely Virginia voters, while 53% had an unfavorable view of him.
Several voters in attendance for McAuliffe’s event on Friday told CBS News their main concern was not allowing Republicans in the state back into power, slamming Mr. Trump and sharing their fear over the January 6 attack.
Earlier this week, President Trump called into a rally in Henrico County to back Youngkin, but he has not campaigned in person for the Republican candidate in the state. At that same event, attendees also pledged allegiance to a flag that was allegedly at the Capitol on January 6.
Youngkin was not at the event but hasto distance himself, calling the pledge “weird and wrong” in a statement.
When asked whether Mr. Trump would be campaigning in the state, Youngkin said on Thursday “the person who is going to be campaigning here for the next two-and-a-half weeks is Glenn Youngkin.”
With early voting already underway, the first lady is the first of several prominent Democrats set to campaign for McAuliffe in the state ahead of Election Day. Former gubernatorial candidate and voting rights activist Stacey Abrams will campaign for McAuliffe over the weekend, and former President Obama will visit the commonwealth next weekend.