Biden Urges Democrats To Finish The Job

By Updated at 2021-11-04 00:54:53 +0000

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WASHINGTON (AP) — US President Joe Biden said Wednesday the Democrats’ setbacks in Tuesday’s elections underscore that the party needs to “produce for the American people,” but he pushed back against the notion that the off-year election results were a repudiation of his presidency.

Biden suggested that his inability to get Congress to pass a $1 trillion infrastructure deal and a $1.75 trillion package of social and climate programs ahead of the voting didn’t make a difference.

In Virginia’s governor’s race Democrat Terry McAuliffe lost to first-time Republican candidate Glenn Youngkin in a state that Biden won by 10 percentage points a year ago.

“I think we should have passed it before Election Day, “ Biden said. ”But I’m not sure that I would have been able to change” people’s minds in Republican-leaning areas either way.

He added that, “people are upset and uncertain about a lot of things” including the pandemic, the job market and the price of a gallon of gasoline. “I think we have to just produce results for them to change their standard of living and give them a little more breathing room,” he said.

Biden made the comments to reporters after delivering remarks to highlight what he said was a “great day” in the fight against coronavirus pandemic as children 5 to 11 became eligible to begin receiving the preventive vaccine.

It was a spot of good news for Biden who returned to Washington early Wednesday from Europe to the news that McAuliffe was narrowly defeated by Youngkin, a first time candidate and former executive with the private equity firm Carlyle Group. 

And Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy was caught in an unexpectedly close race for reelection in New Jersey, a state Biden won by 16 percentage points.

White House officials noted that while Virginia has trended Democratic in recent years the sitting president’s party has lost the governor’s race in 11 of 12 elections there.

Before leaving Glasgow on Tuesday, Biden made the case that “the off year is always unpredictable” and that he had seen no evidence that whether “my agenda passed or not is going to have any real impact on winning or losing” the two governor’s races.

Biden’s polling has fallen in recent weeks, something he blames on coronavirus fatigue among the American public. At the same time, rising prices and supply issues are impacting American households and the political mood.

But the president said those drags could be in the rearview mirror long before midterm elections a year from now if Democrats come together on his agenda.

“If I’m able to pass, sign into law, my Build Back Better initiative, I’m in a position where you’re going to see a lot of those things ameliorated quickly and swiftly,” Biden said.


Murphy Wins Reelection in New Jersey While a Republican Newcomer Won in Virginia

Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy of New Jersey narrowly won reelection in his reliably blue state while a Republican political newcomer delivered a stunning upset in the Virginia governor’s race, sending a warning Wednesday to Democrats that their grip on power in Washington may be in peril.

In Virginia, Glenn Youngkin became the first Republican to win statewide office in a dozen years, tapping into culture war fights over schools and race to unite former President Donald Trump’s most fervent supporters with enough suburban voters to notch a victory.

Meanwhile, Murphy barely eked out a victory against GOP challenger Jack Ciattarelli, who mounted a surprisingly strong campaign on issues including taxes and opposition to pandemic mask and vaccination mandates.

The two states’ results were particularly alarming to Democrats because of where they happened. President Joe Biden carried Virginia by 10 points last year. He took New Jersey by more than 15. Given the scale of those victories, neither state was seen as especially competitive when this year’s campaigns began.

But the first major elections of Biden’s presidency suggested growing discontent among voters. They also underscored that, with Trump out of office, Democrats can’t center their messages on opposition to him. The results ultimately pointed to a potentially painful year ahead for Democrats as they try to maintain thin majorities in Congress.

And they put a new focus on congressional Democrats’ inability so far to pass Biden’s massive domestic policy legislation, though it’s unclear whether the defeat will be enough to jolt his party into action.

Speaking from the White House on Wednesday afternoon, Biden said Democrats need to “produce for the American people.”

Republicans celebrated their strong showing, with Youngkin telling a cheering crowd of supporters that “this is the spirit of Virginia coming together like never before.” The GOP’s strength extended to down-ballot contests, including the lieutenant governor’s race, which Winsome Sears won, becoming the first woman of color to win Virginia statewide office.

McAuliffe formally conceded in a statement Wednesday morning that congratulated Youngkin.

“Losing is never easy,” he said. “We put ourselves out there and left it all on the field.”

A political neophyte, Youngkin was able to take advantage of apparent apathy among core Democratic voters fatigued by years of elections that were seen as must-wins, as well as growing frustrations with Biden and the economy. He successfully portrayed McAuliffe, a former Virginia governor, Democratic National Committee chairman and close friend of Bill and Hillary Clinton, as part of an elite class of politicians. He also seized on a late-stage stumble by McAuliffe, who during a debate suggested parents should have a minimal role in shaping school curriculums.

Perhaps most significantly, Youngkin prevailed in a task that has stumped scores of Republicans before him: attracting Trump’s base while also appealing to suburban voters who were repelled by the former president’s divisive behavior.

During the campaign, Youngkin stated his support for “election integrity,” a nod at Trump’s lie that the 2020 presidential election was stolen, while also focusing on education and business-friendly policies. He never campaigned in person with Trump, successfully challenging McAuliffe’s effort to cast him as a clone of the former president.

That approach could provide a model for Republicans competing in future races that feature significant numbers of Democratic or independent voters.

Elsewhere Tuesday, some of the nation’s largest cities held mayoral contests. Democratic former police captain Eric Adams won in New York, and Boston voters elected City Councilor Michelle Wu as its first female and Asian American mayor. Cincinnati is getting its first Asian American mayor, Aftab Pureval.

Minneapolis voters rejected a ballot initiative that sought to overhaul policing in their city, where George Floyd was killed by a white police officer on Memorial Day 2020, sparking the largest wave of protests against racial injustice in generations. The initiative would have replaced the police force with a Department of Public Safety charged with undertaking “a comprehensive public health” approach to policing.

But no other contest in this off-year election season received the level of national attention — and money — as the governor’s race in Virginia, a state with broad swaths of college-educated suburban voters who are increasingly influential in swaying control of Congress and the White House.

A former co-CEO at the Carlyle Group with a lanky, 6′6″ build that once made him a reserve forward on Rice University’s basketball team, Youngkin poured vast amounts of his personal fortune into a campaign that spent more than $59 million. Favoring fleece vests, Youngkin sought to cut the image of a genial suburban dad.

Youngkin ran confidently on a conservative platform. He opposed a major clean energy mandate the state passed two years ago and objected to abortion in most circumstances.

He also opposed mask and vaccine mandates, and he promised to expand Virginia’s limited charter schools and ban critical race theory, an academic framework that centers on the idea that racism is systemic in the nation’s institutions and that they function to maintain the dominance of white people. In recent months, it has become a catch-all political buzzword for any teaching in schools about race and American history.

McAuliffe tried to energize the Democratic base by highlighting abortion, denouncing a new Texas law that largely banned the procedure and warning that Youngkin would seek to implement similar restrictions.

Youngkin didn’t discuss abortion much publicly, and a liberal activist caught him on tape saying the issue couldn’t help him during the campaign. He said an election win would allow the party to “start going on offense” on the issue.

While McAuliffe pulled on the star power of a host of national Democrats, including former President Barack Obama and ex-Georgia governor candidate Stacey Abrams, Youngkin largely campaigned on his own, focusing on issues he said were important to Virginians.

Polls showed the race tightening after McAuliffe said during a late September debate that he didn’t think “parents should be telling schools what they should teach.” That prompted Youngkin to run hundreds of TV ads on the statement and to focus on his own pledges to make school curricula less “un-American” and to overhaul policies on transgender students and school bathrooms.

The race took an especially bitter turn last week, when Youngkin ran an ad featuring a mother and GOP activist who eight years ago led an effort to ban “Beloved,” the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by Black Nobel laureate Toni Morrison, from classrooms.

McAuliffe accused Youngkin of uncorking a “racist dog whistle,” but Youngkin said Virginia parents knew what was really at stake — and so did families across the country. That was a nod to how tapping into parental activism could work for the GOP next year and in future election cycles.

“America is watching Virginia,” Youngkin said as part of his closing argument.

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Associated Press writers Ben Finley in Norfolk, Virginia, Hank Kurz in Richmond, Alexandra Jaffe in McLean and Jill Colvin in New York contributed to this report.

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