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Biden dealt major blow in Tuesday's elections

Washington Examiner logo Washington Examiner 11/3/2021 W. James Antle III
President Joe Biden speaks with Democratic gubernatorial candidate, former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe during a rally Tuesday, Oct. 26, 2021, in Arlington, Va. McAuliffe will face Republican Glenn Youngkin in the November election. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon) © Provided by Washington Examiner President Joe Biden speaks with Democratic gubernatorial candidate, former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe during a rally Tuesday, Oct. 26, 2021, in Arlington, Va. McAuliffe will face Republican Glenn Youngkin in the November election. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Voters delivered President Joe Biden a stunning electoral setback on Tuesday night as Republicans outperformed their 2020 showings in the first real test of the Democratic agenda’s electoral strength.

Republican Glenn Youngkin was poised to lead his ticket to victory in Virginia, where Biden beat former President Donald Trump by 10 points a year ago. Former Gov. Terry McAuliffe, the Democratic nominee seeking a second nonconsecutive term, was unable to come close to replicating this performance.

New Jersey, an even bluer state where Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy not long ago led comfortably in the public polls, also saw Republican Jack Ciattarelli exceeding expectations.


Local conditions and the performance of individual candidates loomed large. But Biden had campaigned for the Democratic candidates, confidently predicted a McAuliffe win hours before the polls closed in Virginia, and was unable to boost his party’s prospects, confirming his low job approval ratings amid liberal complaints that pollsters had overcompensated for their underestimation of Trump’s support in the last two elections.

Republicans were especially quick to seize on the Virginia results as a sign they will do well in next year’s midterm elections. “In the words of Kamala Harris, ‘What happens in Virginia will in large part determine what happens in 2022, 2024, and on,’” said the Republican National Committee’s Tommy Pigott in a statement proclaiming the “red wave is here.”

The midterm elections will largely be contested in territory less Democratic than either New Jersey or the Virginia of the past decade. Democrats are defending a razor-thin majority in the House and a 50-50 Senate that is only under their control thanks to Vice President Kamala Harris’s tiebreaking vote.

These results also come at an inopportune time for Biden’s legislative agenda. Democrats are on the cusp of coalescing around a plan to pass both a slimmed-down reconciliation bill funding liberal policy priorities and the bipartisan infrastructure package. (Both bills still cost in excess of $1 trillion.) But liberals and centrists still disagree over the details, and party leaders have little margin for error.

Biden’s inability to help Democratic candidates perform to the level that should be expected based on the partisan tilt of their states will limit his ability to persuade recalcitrant lawmakers who may be more popular in their districts or states.

New Jersey has often been an early predictor of the midterm elections, with Republicans winning the governorship in 1993, a year before they picked up 52 House seats and their first majority in the federal chamber in 40 years, and 2009, a year before they gained 63 seats. Both elections occurred under Democratic presidents.

Republicans also won the Virginia governorship in 1993, a year before the party took control of Congress in a sharp reprimand to Democratic President Bill Clinton. Democrat Tim Kaine’s win in 2005 came a year before his party took Congress near the nadir of Republican George W. Bush’s presidency. And Republican Bob McDonnell won in 2009, ahead of midterm elections Democratic President Barack Obama described as a “shellacking” at the hands of the GOP.

If Democrats lose control of Congress, whatever Biden cannot accomplish before the midterm elections will become virtually impossible for the remainder of his term. Democrats will also be reluctant to take difficult votes during the election year, limiting Biden’s opportunities to pass controversial bills.

Although Biden and Harris campaigned in Virginia, McAuliffe admitted the president was unpopular in the state. Election results along these lines have often been a precursor to presidential failure, even if they ultimately rebounded to win a second term.

But Clinton had secured the passage of a tax increase and a crime bill that included a federal assault weapons ban before Democrats lost the midterm elections in 1994. Obama signed both a stimulus package and Obamacare, his biggest legislative success, into law before a pair of midterm losses saw the GOP regain control of Congress.

Biden only has a nearly $2 trillion reprise of previous COVID-19 economic relief packages to show for his presidency and majorities up to this point. He has warned Democrats that both are riding on their ability to pass big-ticket legislation.

McAuliffe in particular campaigned relentlessly against Trump. The former president gloated in a statement, “It is looking like Terry McAuliffe's campaign against a certain person named ‘Trump’ has very much helped Glenn Youngkin.” Voters appear to have turned their attention to Biden to the Democrats’ detriment.


Some Democratic operatives, especially those advising centrists, have argued the party would have done better Tuesday night if they had decoupled the bipartisan infrastructure bill from the Democrats-only climate and social welfare spending measure and passed the package funding roads, bridges, and railways.

Stronger-than-initially-anticipated Republican showings will give Democrats something to consider as they enter the most important weeks of Biden’s presidency. And Biden no longer looks like a major electoral asset to his party.


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Tags: News, Joe Biden, Glenn Youngkin, Terry McAuliffe, Phil Murphy, 2022 Elections, News

Original Author: W. James Antle III

Original Location: Biden dealt major blow in Tuesday's elections


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