Biden throws support into struggling Democrat's governor race

Washington (AFP) – President Joe Biden campaigns Tuesday in Virginia for the Democrats' beleaguered governor candidate Terry McAuliffe, whose slide in the polls has put the party on red alert for a Republican comeback in next year's midterm battle for Congress.

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On paper, McAuliffe, 64, should have a relatively easy run in a week's time.

Already a former Virginia governor and seeking to replace the outgoing Democrat, he is the closest thing to an incumbent in a state where Biden trounced Donald Trump in the presidential election 12 months ago.

Instead, Republican candidate Glenn Youngkin is tied with McAuliffe in the polls, eying a victory on November 2 that would energize his party's push to regain control of Congress in the 2022 midterms.

Biden will campaign with McAuliffe late Tuesday in Arlington, part of the suburban sprawl around Washington, which Democrats have turned into a liberal stronghold, counterbalancing deeply conservative swaths of small towns and rural areas in the state.

The popular former president Barack Obama has already tried to lift McAuliffe's sagging campaign and Vice President Kamala Harris is headed to Virginia on Friday.

Part of the problem for the Democrats is simply cyclical. They can expect to lose Congress in next year's midterms because that is almost always what happens to the party of the sitting president.

But the other problem is that Biden himself is no longer popular.

Although Biden beat Trump by 10 percentage points in the 2020 election, Democratic enthusiasm has slipped and Biden is struggling with the Covid-19 pandemic and the difficulties of a Congress where his party is only barely in the majority.

The latest Gallup approval rating of just 42 percent makes Biden the most unpopular president ever at this stage in an administration -- except for Trump.

Compromises, but still delivering?

The White House hopes that Biden's divided party will come to a deal on authorizing trillions of dollars in public spending just in time for election day.

US President Joe Biden is trying to keep his Democratic Party's hopes up
US President Joe Biden is trying to keep his Democratic Party's hopes up Nicholas Kamm AFP

"We are going to get those things done," White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki told reporters Tuesday.

Congress, where the Democrats control the Senate by one vote and the House by only a handful, has been haggling for months over Biden's ambitious wish list.

A $1.2 trillion infrastructure package, which would revamp America's crumbling roads and bridges, is all but ready to go.

A second package that would pour even more money into education, childcare and other social safety net issues is under fierce debate. Biden's initial $3.5 trillion price tag is being whittled down to something likely to be under $2 trillion.

Psaki said the messy negotiations reflect "the realities of governing" but insisted that Democrats should not be disheartened when they go to the polls.

"These are all components of what the president ran on and what we promised and they all would make a huge impact on people's lives across the country," she said.

"So do you want to be a part of that or do you want to be a part of nothing? Because these are the alternatives."