The day after his fellow Democrats suffered stinging election losses, including the governor’s race in Virginia, President Biden offered his diagnosis for the Republican show of strength, acknowledging that “people are upset and uncertain.”
At a White House briefing on the authorization of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for children ages 5 to 11, Biden was asked by NBC reporter Kristen Welker how much he was personally responsible for Democrat Terry McAuliffe’s loss in Virginia. The president began by qualifying it.
“I was talking to Terry to congratulate him today. He got 600,000 more votes than any Democrat [in the state] ever has gotten. We brought out every Democrat, about, there was,” Biden said. “More votes than ever has been cast for a Democratic incumbent, not incumbent, a Democrat running for governor. And no governor in Virginia has ever won when he’s of the same party as the sitting president.”
McAuliffe, however, was elected governor in 2013, when Democrat Barack Obama was president. As Biden continued his answer, he seemed to suggest that the fact that his agenda was stalled in a divided Congress had played a role. Even before Election Day, some observers had predicted that congressional gridlock would play an outsize role in the race given Virginia’s proximity to D.C. — indeed, much of the state is in the Washington media market.
“What I do know is, though, is people want us to get things done. They want us to get things done and that’s why I’m continuing to push very hard for the Democratic Party to move along and pass my infrastructure bill and my Build Back Better bill,” Biden said. “Think about what we’re talking about here. People are upset and uncertain about a lot of things: from COVID to school to jobs to a whole range of things and — the cost of a gallon of gasoline — and so, if I’m able to pass and 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.”
Pressed if he took responsibility for McAuliffe’s loss and whether he thought it would have been prevented if his agenda had been passed before Election Day, Biden said, “I think it should have passed before Election Day, but I’m not sure that I would be able to have changed the number of very conservative folks who turned out in red districts who were Trump voters — maybe, maybe.”
When another reporter asked what strategy Democrats should mount to counter the energy among Republican voters over cultural controversies such as the teaching of critical race theory in public schools, the president said, “I think we should produce for the American people.”
Just months ago, Democrats had assumed Virginia was safely in their column. Even as polls had shown Republican Glenn Youngkin had pulled in the lead by the time Election Day arrived, Biden went so far as to make a bold prediction as he departed the U.N. Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, Scotland.
“We’re gonna win,” he assured reporters. “I think we’re gonna win in Virginia.”