(WASHINGTON) — First lady Jill Biden is hitting the campaign trail Friday, hoping to help deliver victories for Democrats in two gubernatorial elections.
Biden will travel to Virginia and New Jersey to campaign with former Gov. Terry McAuliffe and Gov. Phil Murphy in their respective states.
An incumbent Democratic governor hasn’t won reelection in New Jersey since the 1970s, but public polling indicates Murphy is better positioned heading into November than McAuliffe. Polls conducted in mid-September from Stockton University and Monmouth University showed Murphy with a nine-point and 13-point lead, respectively, over Republican Jack Ciattarelli, a former assemblyman.
While Virginians rejected former President Donald Trump at the ballot box twice and Democrats made significant gains in the commonwealth, including securing a trifecta government when he was in office, McAuliffe only has a slim 2.5-point lead over GOP nominee Glenn Youngkin, according to FiveThirtyEight’s polling average.
Despite the race tightening over the last few weeks, McAuliffe is confident Virginians will back his record and he’ll once again break the so-called “Virginia curse” of candidates losing Virginia’s off-year gubernatorial race if they have the same party affiliation as the current occupant of the White House.
“We’re gonna win this again and make history again with this,” McAuliffe told reporters Thursday. “I am the first candidate for office of either party in 80 years to win every single city and county (in the primary). … Why? I think a.) people were happy with my job as governor before and b.) because I have a real agenda.”
The first lady is not the only high-profile surrogate hitting the road for the two candidates — former President Barack Obama will also stump for both men next week.
Obama will hold back-to-back events in the states on Oct. 23, 10 days before Election Day and coinciding with the first day of in-person early voting in New Jersey’s history.
Georgia heavy-hitters Stacey Abrams and Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, who were both on the president’s shortlist for vice president, are also headed to Virginia on Sunday to campaign for McAuliffe.
After McAuliffe said during the last debate that he doesn’t “think parents should be telling schools what they should teach,” the Youngkin campaign rallied around education as his closing message. Having the first lady, an educator who began her career in 1976, join McAuliffe on the trail could serve as an opportunity to speak to the issue and reassure parents who may be wary of his stance.
Biden, who currently works as an English professor at Northern Virginia Community College, has made education one of the top priorities in her role as first lady.
The first lady is not the first Biden to campaign for McAuliffe in the state — President Joe Biden also made a campaign stop on behalf of his longtime friend in July — though recent polling has shown Biden’s approval ratings in the state fall, leading McAuliffe to distance himself from the president.
“We are facing a lot of headwinds from Washington, as you know. The president is unpopular today unfortunately here in Virginia, so we have got to plow through,” McAuliffe said during a virtual rally last week. He’s also said he’s frustrated that Congress still hasn’t passed the infrastructure package, saying the “inaction on Capitol Hill … is so damaging.”
Despite the comments, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Thursday that she expected the president would continue to advocate for McAuliffe’s candidacy.
“I think the president of course wants former Governor McAuliffe to be the future governor of Virginia. There is alignment on a lot of their agenda, whether it is the need to invest in rebuilding our roads, rails and bridges or making it easier for women to rejoin the workforce,” Psaki told reporters.
“We’re going to do everything we can to help former Governor McAuliffe and we believe in the agenda he’s representing,” she added
And McAuliffe has since made clear that Biden is still welcome in Virginia, telling reporters Tuesday, “He’ll be coming back. You bet he will.”
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