DUMFRIES, Va.—As Virginia Democratic gubernatorial nominee Terry McAuliffe rallied with Vice President Kamala Harris to tout "Democratic leadership" on the economy, businesses outside of the Northern Virginia venue struggled to deal with "unprecedented" labor and supply chain issues.
At his Thursday evening rally in Dumfries, McAuliffe spoke of "new high-paying jobs" and "reduced unemployment" in the state, adding, "That's what you get with good Democratic leadership." Throughout the surrounding area, however, businesses bore the impact of the Biden administration's ongoing supply chain crisis and crippling labor shortage.
In a nearby Waffle House—a late-night Southern restaurant chain known for remaining open during extreme events—both a sign at the door and an updated menu apologized for reduced seating capacity and limited service hours, citing "unprecedented staffing and supply chain challenges."
A sign outside the town's local Aldi, meanwhile, informed customers that due to "shipping delays," some advertised items may not be in stock. "We're hiring" and "help wanted" signs also lined restaurants and stores throughout Dumfries—according to one local service industry worker, eateries in the area are "real short-staffed," leading to inconsistent hours.
The Biden administration's economic stumbles complicate McAuliffe's bid for a second term as governor. According to a Thursday CNBC poll, just 40 percent approve of President Joe Biden's handling of the economy, while 54 percent disapprove. In addition, 46 percent say the economy will get worse in the next year, the "most in the 13-year history of the poll." While McAuliffe has acknowledged Biden is "unpopular" in Virginia and could cause "headwinds" for his campaign, the president is set to return to the state for a McAuliffe rally one week before the election. McAuliffe's bet on Biden and Harris to put him over the edge may backfire—45 percent of Virginia voters cite "jobs and the economy" as a top issue in the election, a Tuesday Monmouth University poll shows. That number is up from 39 percent in September.
Virginia's economy has struggled to bounce back from the coronavirus pandemic. In September, the state ranked 41st in the country in job recovery, having recovered just 66 percent of its lost jobs, Labor Department data show.
"I've been to restaurants where they have a notice sign on the door saying, ‘We are closed at this time due to shortage of staff,'" a Northern Virginia voter told the Washington Free Beacon. "I have friends who work at the grocery store who are saying that they're unable to fill the shelves—this is in Virginia—because they're not getting products in."
Neither the White House nor the McAuliffe campaign returned requests for comment.
Harris avoided addressing the economy during her Thursday night speech, which largely centered on abortion rights—she said "the right that every woman in America has to make decisions about her own body" is "what matters" in the race. According to the latest Monmouth poll, however, just 10 percent of Virginia voters identify abortion as their number-one issue, compared to 27 percent who cite the economy.
Harris also conceded that McAuliffe is embroiled in a "tight" race against Republican opponent Glenn Youngkin. Two October polls show the Democrat is in a statistical tie with Youngkin. Biden won the state by double digits in 2020.
Not long after attendees filtered out of the rally, Biden took to the stage roughly 75 miles away in Baltimore to participate in a CNN town hall. The president acknowledged that some economic deficiencies will linger into 2022, an admission that is unlikely to ease Democrats' concerns as they look to avoid a high-profile loss in Virginia.
"I don't see anything that's going to significantly reduce gas prices right now," Biden told Anderson Cooper. "My guess is you'll start to see gas prices come down as we get … into next year in 2022."
McAuliffe and Youngkin will face off at the polls on Nov. 2.
Matthew Foldi contributed to this report.