24th October, 2021
Former U.S. President Barack Obama was back on the hustings Saturday, campaigning for Democratic governorship candidates in Virginia and New Jersey.
With just over a week to the election in the two states, Obama hoped to rally the party’s base to turn out in the off-year general elections.
“I want you to get fired up inside and then go vote. … We ain’t got time to be tired!” Obama said at a rally for Terry McAuliffe, Virginia’s Democratic ticket in Richmond.
While the race between New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy and Republican Jack Ciattarelli, a former assemblyman, appears to be headed to a Democratic victory, according to recent polls, Obama still made the trip to Newark on the first day of in-person early voting ever in the state to stump for the incumbent.
“So Phil’s been busy. He’s been busy. He’s done the work, and you know what? That track record matters,” Obama said.
“If you elect him, Phil’s gonna work to make health care and housing more affordable. He’s going to invest in clean energy. He’s going to do what it takes to keep people safe and help New Jersey come out of the pandemic stronger than before. And when he says this is what I’m gonna do, you know he’s gonna do it because he wasn’t about empty promises this first term.”
In remarks before Obama, Murphy said turnout was key to a Democratic victory in 10 days.
“Listen, the math is simple. Our team is bigger than their team. Our team shows up, we win. Our team doesn’t show up, this thing is a coin toss. We can’t let that happen,” he said.
In Virginia, the race between former Gov. Terry McAuliffe, who’s seeking a second term in Virginia, and Republican Glenn Youngkin, a former private equity executive, is neck and neck.
A poll from Monmouth University published Wednesday showed the candidates tied among registered voters.
Obama urged Virginians to re-elect Terry McAuliffe as governor at a rally on Saturday, emphasizing the race’s significance as an indicator of the country’s political direction and a reflection of its values.
Obama and McAuliffe, who served as the state’s governor from 2014 to 2018, spoke before a cheering crowd at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond with just 10 days to go before the closely watched, tight Nov. 2 election.
The off-year race is seen as a barometer of how the country might decide the 2022 midterm elections, which will decide which party controls Congress, and a referendum on Democrat Joe Biden’s presidency.
Obama told the crowd the Virginia election represented a national “turning point,” where Americans could either become more embattled in the divisive politics that characterized Republican Donald Trump’s presidency and which culminated in an attack by Trump’s supporters on the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, or “pull together” to “solve big problems.”
“I believe you, right here in Virginia, are going to show the rest of the country and the world that we’re not going to indulge in our worst instincts,” Obama said.
“We’re not going to go back to the chaos that did so much damage. We’re going to move forward with people like Terry leading the way.”
McAuliffe told the crowd the election was too important to sit out, with several key issues on the ballot.
“This election is about the next chapter of Virginia and our country. … It’s about leading us out of this pandemic, keeping our economy strong, protecting voter rights, protecting abortion rights and so much more,” he said.
Opinion polls show McAuliffe, 64, and Republican Glenn Youngkin, 54, nearly tied.
A poll this week by Monmouth University showed Youngkin had closed McAuliffe’s 5-point lead since September by gaining ground with independent and women voters.
Youngkin’s strength in the polls during the first weeks of early voting has worried Democrats, who anticipated a comfortable lead in a state that has trended blue in recent years.
Democrats flipped the Virginia legislature in 2019 and Trump lost the state by 10 percentage points in November 2020, double his margin of defeat in 2016.
Democratic National Committee Chairman Jaime Harrison told reporters at Saturday’s event he was confident that Virginians would go to the polls and deliver a victory for McAuliffe.
“At the end of the day, it’s about turnout,” he said. “If we get the Democrats to turn out, we win.”
The serving governor, Ralph Northam, a Democrat, cannot seek re-election because the state bars governors from serving consecutive terms.
McAuliffe can run because he left office in 2018.
Youngkin has walked a fine line between welcoming Trump’s endorsement and distancing himself from the former president’s false claim that the 2020 presidential election was stolen.
Obama condemned Youngkin on Saturday for walking that line, and said it reflected poorly on his character.
“Either he actually believes in the same conspiracy theories that resulted in a mob, or he doesn’t believe it but he’s willing to go along with it to say or do anything to get elected. And maybe that’s worse,” Obama said.