Biden’s broader remarks focused on his administration’s work to end the pandemic and turn around the economy, pass trillions of dollars in infrastructure and social programs like the child tax credit, reduce drug prices and raise taxes on the wealthy to pay for it.
But his centering of Trump in the off-year Virginia race offered a preview for how he and leading Democrats plan to approach the long shadow Trump has cast over Republicans. In Virginia, Trump has endorsed Youngkin on three separate occasions, and Democrats are crossing their fingers that Biden’s appearance would draw Trump to holding an event for the GOP nominee.
“As Democrats, we have to show we do understand, and we’re delivering for them, and we’re keeping our promises,” he continued. “We just have to keep making the case, just as the Republican Party today offers nothing but fears and lies and broken promises.”
The rally, before a mostly maskless crowd of nearly 3,000 people in Arlington, comes just over 100 days before the election in Virginia, which will pit McAuliffe in his comeback bid against Youngkin, a first-time candidate and former Carlyle Group executive.
Biden’s speech opened with a focus on the pandemic and the rising coronavirus cases across the country. “What we have now is a pandemic of the unvaccinated,” he said, saying “a lot of our conservative friends” had “seen the Lord” on embracing vaccinations. He cited Alabama GOP Gov. Kay Ivey’s frustration with "unvaccinated folks" in her state.
The gubernatorial election in the commonwealth has nearly always cut against the party in power. For the last 40 years, just one candidate won the governorship while his party controlled the White House: McAuliffe, who secured a narrow victory in 2013.
"This off-year election, the country's looking,” Biden said.
Biden and his aides are eager to use the race to show that the president will be committed to party building, hoping to avert down-ballot wipeouts. The rally came on the heels of the Democratic National Committee announcing it would spend at least $5 million in Virginia ahead of the election, which the party called its “biggest investment in the commonwealth in history.”
Public polling in the race has been sparse, but it is expected to be closer than Biden’s 10-point victory over Trump — and outgoing Gov. Ralph Northam’s runaway win in 2017 — with McAuliffe as a slight favorite.
And publicly, McAuliffe and his team have maintained this race is neck and neck. “I need your help,” he told the crowd. “I need you to work every single day and night. Sleep is way overrated.”
McAuliffe and other Virginia Democrats have also sought to tie Youngkin to Trump.
“Why is it that Glenn Youngkin and Donald Trump are so close?” McAuliffe said at the rally.
McAuliffe’s message also focused heavily on the economy during his tenure in Richmond. He, too, praised the coronavirus recovery package. “The American Rescue Plan has injected new life into our economy,’ McAuliffe said.
The rally also comes a day after McAuliffe released his first general election TV ad. AdImpact, an ad tracking firm, traced at least $525,000 in TV ad spending from McAuliffe that started on Thursday and runs through next Wednesday. In the ad, McAuliffe calls Youngkin “a loyalist to Donald Trump.”
Youngkin, meanwhile, has been on the air nearly uninterrupted since the early June Democratic primary — and uncontested until this week.