Politics|Biden hits the campaign trail for the first time as president, backing Terry McAuliffe for Virginia governor.
President Biden made a gleeful return to the campaign trail on Friday evening, joining former Gov. Terry McAuliffe of Virginia, who is seeking to regain his old job in November, for his first campaign event since his inauguration.
In a park in Arlington County, a short drive from Washington, Mr. Biden appeared to be back in his electoral element, shedding his necktie, whipping up the crowd and repeatedly casting Mr. McAuliffe as a crucial ally in his fight for a sprawling agenda to remake American capitalism.
“I need him,” Mr. Biden said as Mr. McAuliffe beamed behind him. “I need him.”
Mr. McAuliffe easily won the Democratic nomination for the Virginia governor’s race in June, hoping to return to the office four years after he served his term. The state does not permit governors to run for consecutive terms.
Mr. Biden won Virginia handily last year on his way to the White House, but some Democrats are worried about Mr. McAuliffe’s prospects this year against the Republican nominee, Glenn Youngkin, a political newcomer and former private equity executive. Mr. Youngkin has the ability to spend millions of dollars of his own money to help make the race competitive.
Trading his more serene presidential demeanor for a fiery campaign one, Mr. Biden sought to tie the coming elections to his own political project. Instead of his typical practice in White House speeches of leaning into the microphone and whispering to emphasize his points, the president leaned in and shouted.
“We’re going to have to go out and win, win this thing, win races up and down the ticket,” he implored the crowd.
Mr. Biden repeatedly praised his coronavirus relief bill, the American Rescue Plan, including the direct checks that were sent to low- and middle-income workers. He also pitched his suite of proposals to overhaul American capitalism, including reducing prescription drug prices by allowing Medicare to negotiate with pharmaceutical companies and making two years of community college free for all students, paid for by raising taxes on corporations and high earners.
In each case, Mr. Biden called Mr. McAuliffe a partner in his vision. “Terry and I share the same basic truth,” Mr. Biden said. “Trickle-down economies never work.”
He leaned on policy to draw contrasts with Republicans. “In this election and in 2022, the question the American people are going to be asking is whether or not we’re helping them and their families,” Mr. Biden said. He added: “We have to show we do understand, and we’re delivering for them. And we’re keeping our promises.”
Republicans sought to criticize Mr. McAuliffe over the visit. In a news release on Friday, the Republican National Committee called Mr. Biden and Mr. McAuliffe “swampy career politicians with failed records who are now tripping over themselves to embrace the radical left as quickly as possible.”
Mr. McAuliffe, who mulled a presidential run in 2020 but passed and endorsed Mr. Biden, has sought to make the race a referendum on former President Donald J. Trump, who has backed Mr. Youngkin enthusiastically. Mr. Trump remains popular with Republicans in the state’s rural areas but has alienated moderates in the Washington suburbs.
Mr. McAuliffe has sought to tether Mr. Youngkin to Mr. Trump, joking that he would pay for the fuel for Mr. Trump to visit the state and campaign for Mr. Youngkin. And the former governor has embraced Mr. Biden, expressing hope that the president will campaign for him multiple times before November.
In his speech introducing Mr. Biden, Mr. McAuliffe accused Mr. Youngkin of founding his campaign “on an election integrity plan that was based on Donald Trump’s conspiracy theory about the 2020 election, and for five months that is the only plan that he had on his website.”
“Let me clear it up for you,” Mr. McAuliffe said. “Joe Biden won that election.”
Mr. McAuliffe later drew cheers for vowing to raise Virginia’s minimum wage to $15 an hour within the next three years, an echo of Mr. Biden’s unsuccessful attempts to raise the federal minimum wage to that level.
Then he yielded to Mr. Biden, who commanded the stage for almost exactly a half-hour. When the president finished — with a more energetic-than-normal version of his typical request for God to bless America and its troops — he turned to embrace Mr. McAuliffe, then wheeled back to the crowd, smiling and waving.