The effort took a gubernatorial run that is tantamount to an indicator of the popularity of Democrats at large and paired it with their legislative agenda – if one fails, the other could too.
“I hope everyone will come to their senses by the end of the month,” said Rep Filemon Vela (D-Texas). “If things don’t go well [in Virginia], there are going to be a lot of different calculations here.
If McAuliffe does not win, some pessimistic Democrats have privately predicted a ‘collapse’ on Capitol Hill, where party leaders are already struggling to unite progressives and centrists around a social infrastructure set of about 2 Trillion dollars. Meanwhile, the bipartisan $ 550 billion infrastructure bill passed by the Senate is on hold because the votes are not there in the House, much to the chagrin of Democrats in Virginia.
This bill has stalled because Pelosi and other top Democrats have yet to strike a deal on the welfare spending bill with two main dissenters, centrist Sens. Joe Manchin (DW.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.). And despite public statements of action by the end of October – when Congress is once again forced to deal with expiring freeway and transit programs – Democrats seem far from even a draft agreement.
Election day in Virginia, not October 31, is the real deadline for acting on Democrats’ national priorities for many on Capitol Hill. Either way, the race is a tipping point. If McAuliffe wins, he will boost the Democrats’ struggling legislative push. If he loses, it could trigger a shock wave that could send already fearful moderates away from the tenuous discussions.
“Terry losing is catastrophic for the agenda,” said a longtime Democratic aide, summing up the views of the party’s most vulnerable members on condition of anonymity.
As you might expect, most Democratic lawmakers were unwilling to publicly state what would happen if Youngkin stunned their party in a reliable state and won. Democrats control both state legislative chambers, as well as all elected offices statewide, but Bob McDonnell’s resounding gubernatorial victory in 2009 showed how far national momentum has waned. Democrats as they tried to win the affordable care bill.
But a few have tried to paint a rosier picture of running too close for Virginia for comfort – that either way, it should be a wake-up call for Democrats to unite behind a single bill that could affect all aspects of American life, from children’s and family programs to health care and the environment.
“I really hope and don’t expect Terry to lose,” said Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.), Who lost a governorship race in Virginia in 1997. “But in the worst case… I think the moderates will look and say that if we are to be elected in 2022, we had better show that we have done some meaningful things in the last couple of years.
Virginians began voting early in late September, and each successive day puts more pressure on McAuliffe to clinch what became a reliable Democratic state in the Trump era. The party won two consecutive gubernatorial races there, including McAuliffe’s first term, and took the presidency during Trump’s presidency after a long stint in the minority. Additionally, Biden gained 10 points in 2020 in a state once known as the GOP stronghold.
Today, the polls show the race is close, giving McAuliffe a small advantage. After Biden’s approval rating drops and local issues such as the school curriculum attracted more attention, McAuliffe is now ahead of Youngkin by just a few points, with independent voters shifting significantly to Republicans in the two. last months.
But Virginia politicians say the party needs to do more to help McAuliffe. Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.), A former governor, said that like Biden, “Terry is all about action and delivery,” but this stalemate on Capitol Hill as Democrats control at both Congress and the White House undermine the party’s message that it knows how to govern.
“The best thing that can happen to Terry is either to get the Infrastructure Bill or” China’s Competitiveness Bill, both of which were passed by the Senate earlier this year but have stagnated. in the House, Warner said in an interview. “Internal feuds on the Democratic side prevent the president from winning over one or the other. And directly reinforcing the message that Democrats know how to govern is a challenge. “
McAuliffe is close to Pelosi – she even hosts a fundraiser for him later this month – but he continued to call the House for failing to put the Senate infrastructure bill to a vote. House leaders insist that the bill will be introduced as soon as they have the votes to pass it.
Warner said McAuliffe spoke to Pelosi with some frequency behind the scenes. McAuliffe also calls the speaker daily to make gestures.
“Inaction on Capitol Hill today is so damaging,” McAuliffe told reporters this week. ” Do your job. Stop talking, stop talking to the press, walk into a room, figure out what to do and get it done.
Privately, Democrats say Pelosi is still in the race to secure some sort of framework deal with Manchin and Sinema before the end of October. Even a preview, these Democrats hope, could unlock enough progressive votes to pass the infrastructure bill in the final days before the Virginia election.
Progressives who have been the main proponents of balancing a big bill on the social safety net and the infrastructure package have said they will accept this deal in order to send this latest bipartisan bill to the office. of Biden in the days leading up to the race in Virginia.
“I want Terry McAuliffe to win. And I’m listening very carefully to what Mark Warner and Tim Kaine say about how we can help, ”said Senator Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii). “There is a scenario in which there is a framework for the reconciliation package that satisfies all corners of our party, and allows us to pass the” bipartisan bill.
But Pelosi rejected the idea that McAuliffe’s race counts in his calendar for a vote on the infrastructure bill. And progressive leaders still maintain that they have the voices to defeat the legislation – vowing not to waver until there is a firm deal between the two factions of the party.
“Oct. The 31st is the day when the authority of the road trust runs out. That’s what interests us, ”Pelosi said this week. “It has nothing to do with anything on the outside. “
Zach Montellaro and Sarah Ferris contributed to this report.