WASHINGTON — Virginia gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe brought President Joe Biden to the vote-rich suburbs Friday as he works to keep a national focus in the race and tie his Republican opponent to former President Donald Trump.
Speaking to an estimated 3,000 people at Lubber Run Park in Arlington, a heavily Democratic county outside Washington, Biden said the race would be seen as a bellwether of next year’s midterm elections.
“Virginia, you’ve got to elect him again. And I mean this, not just for Virginia, but for the country,” he said. “These off-year elections, the country is looking.” McAuliffe was governor from 2014 to 2018.
The visit signals a test run of the Democrats’ midterm strategy of highlighting national successes and rallying loyal voters. McAuliffe has kept the focus on links between his opponent, former Carlyle Group co-Chief Executive Officer Glenn Youngkin, and Trump — even daring the former president to visit the state, which he lost by 10 points.
Biden, who typically avoids mentioning Trump by name even when he draws a contrast with his predecessor, referenced him several times. When a heckler interrupted, he told the crowd not to drown him out, saying it was “not a Trump rally.” He called Youngkin “an acolyte of Donald Trump” and joked about McAuliffe’s strategy of tying Youngkin to Trump.
“Terry and I share a lot in common. I ran against Donald Trump, and so is Terry,” he said, drawing laughs. “And I whipped Donald Trump in Virginia, and so will Terry.”
The Youngkin campaign said McAuliffe is leaning on Biden in response to polls showing a tight race.
“Terry McAuliffe must be worried about his terrible poll numbers if he’s already calling in political favors this early in the campaign,” said spokeswoman Macaulay Porter.
McAuliffe is hoping the November election allows him to return to office in a state where governors aren’t allowed to serve two consecutive terms. The state’s off-year elections and mix of urban, suburban and rural voters also offer a testing ground for other Democrats on party messaging and campaign themes.
Biden sounded similar themes to the ones he’s expected to raise in next year’s elections, when the White House hopes to be able to brag about passing two massive bills still moving through Congress that would spend trillions upgrading the country’s infrastructure, extending a $300-a-month child tax credit, making community college free and providing paid family and medical leave.