McAuliffe Says 'Unpopular' Biden Will Campaign for Him in Virginia

Polls show Biden's endorsement makes voters 'less likely' to support McAuliffe

President Biden and failed Virginia gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe / Getty Images
October 12, 2021

President Joe Biden will return to Virginia to campaign with Democratic gubernatorial nominee Terry McAuliffe, who has blamed the tightening polls in his race on the president's dwindling popularity in the state.

McAuliffe during a Tuesday round table said that "you bet" Biden will "be coming back" to the state ahead of McAuliffe's November race against Republican Glenn Youngkin. The announcement comes just days after McAuliffe said the president is "unpopular" in Virginia and could cause "headwinds" in his bid to return to the governor's mansion. White House press secretary Jen Psaki pushed back on the comment, calling Biden "the most popular figure in Virginia of anyone currently running for president."

According to an October Emerson poll, however, just 45 percent of Virginia voters approve of Biden, while 48 percent disapprove. Nearly 40 percent of voters, meanwhile, said Biden's endorsement  would make them "less likely" to vote for the Virginia Democrat. Just 22 percent said the endorsement would make them "more likely" to vote for McAuliffe. While Biden won Virginia by double digits in 2020, McAuliffe is now embroiled in a "dead heat" against Youngkin, the poll states.

Neither the White House nor McAuliffe returned requests for comment. Psaki on Tuesday did not rule out a Biden trip to support McAuliffe in Virginia.

McAuliffe has called in Democratic heavyweights to assist him in the race against Youngkin, hoping they will galvanize a flagging campaign. He has lined up former president Barack Obama and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) to appear at rallies in in the closing weeks of the campaign. According to McAuliffe's team, Obama is set to stump for the former governor at a Richmond rally in late October. Days later, Pelosi will join McAuliffe at a D.C. fundraiser that donors must fork out up to $10,000 to attend.

"Terry is currently polling even with his opponent. Last week, the Cook Political Report shifted our race from 'Lean Democrat' to 'Toss Up,' highlighting just how competitive this race truly is," an email announcing the fundraiser states. "If a Trump Republican wins a state that Biden won by 10 points, it will essentially steamroll a path for Trump's comeback. Terry needs our help to make sure he has the resources for a resounding victory in November."

First Lady Jill Biden (EdD) and failed Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams will also campaign this weekend with McAuliffe. McAuliffe on Thursday used Abrams to accuse Youngkin of "willfully participating in the subversion of our democracy" after the Republican called for voting machine audits. But both McAuliffe and Abrams have pushed "stolen" election rhetoric without evidence.

As Democratic National Committee chairman, for example, McAuliffe spent years accusing Republicans of stealing the 2000 election, a claim he defended during a Thursday round table. Abrams refused to concede her 2018 loss to Georgia governor Brian Kemp (R.) and, years later, maintains that the race "was stolen from the voters of Georgia." Youngkin, on the other hand, has called Biden's election "legitimate."

McAuliffe and Youngkin will square off at the polls on November 2.