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The Early 202

An essential morning newsletter briefing for leaders in the nation’s capital.

Biden and McAuliffe go all in on Trump bashing ahead of next Tuesday's Virginia contest

The Early 202

An essential morning newsletter briefing for leaders in the nation’s capital.

Good morning, Early Birds. It's been eight years since we lost Lou Reed. Pour one out tonight. Tips:

🚨: "The House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol is expected to subpoena John Eastman, the pro-Trump legal scholar who outlined scenarios for denying Joe Biden the presidency, according to the panel’s chairman," Jackie scoops.

“It will happen," Rep. Bennie G. Thompson (D-Miss.), the commitee's chairman, said in an interview on Tuesday.

The campaign

Biden and McAuliffe go all in on Trump bashing ahead of next Tuesday's Virginia race

California Gov. Gavin Newsom fended off a recall last month in part by roping his Republican opponent to former president Donald Trump.

Now Terry McAuliffe is running the same playbook in the final days of the Virginia governor’s race — with a little help from President Biden.

“I ran against Donald Trump, and Terry is running against an acolyte of Donald Trump,” Biden said at a rally in Arlington, on Tuesday evening before setting off for Europe on Thursday. Meanwhile, McAuliffe’s Republican rival, Glenn Youngkin, has tried to keep some distance from Trump without openly rejecting him.

Democrats and Republicans alike are nervously watching, as they do every four years, the outcome of next Tuesday's Virginia contest to decide what might happen in next year's midterm elections. And they're wondering whether the backlash against Trump that helped deliver the House to Democrats in 2018 and later propelled Biden to the White House will hold up nine months after Trump left Washington.

The race is also a referendum on Biden, whose job approval rating has declined sharply over the past three months.

Biden won Virginia by 10 points last year, but a Suffolk University poll released Tuesday found only 41 percent of likely voters in the state approve of Biden’s job performance and 52 percent disapprove. A Suffolk poll right before the 2009 election, in contrast, found that 50 percent of likely Virginia voters approved of Barack Obama’s job performance; only 42 percent disapproved.

The same Suffolk poll also found McAuliffe, a former governor, and Youngkin, a former Carlyle Group executive, essentially tied, with 5 percent of respondents undecided. Pollster David Paleologos told USA Today what insiders already know: “It's down to turnout."

“Virginia is so susceptible and even reactive to the national climate,” former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, a Republican who won election days after the 2009 poll, told The Early.

Uncanny accuracy

Politicos are watching Virginia closely because it has an uncanny record of foreshadowing how a first-term president’s party will fare in the midterms. Former Republican Gov. George Allen’s victory in 1993 presaged his party’s recapture of the House the following year. McDonnell’s win preceded the 2010 Republican wave. And Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam’s blowout victory four years ago previewed the trends that helped Democrats retake the House the following year.

“Nobody even knew about the suburban surge and backlash to Trump until Virginia happened,” Brad Komar, Northam’s campaign manager, said in an interview on Tuesday.

After Northam won, Komar suddenly got calls from top Democratic operative and was invited to speak to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee on what it all meant for the midterms. “It really did help choreograph 2018,” he said.

For House Republicans, Northam's victory was a warning — especially for those in Virginia. Former Rep. Scott Taylor, one of three Virginia Republicans who lost their House seats in 2018, said he thought Northam's win made it easier for his Democratic opponent, Rep. Elaine Luria, to raise money.

But Taylor said he was surprised McAuliffe had devoted so much time this year to lashing Youngkin to Trump. (In contrast, McAuliffe has barely mentioned Biden, as the New York Times' Lisa Lerer points out, though he appeared with him on Tuesday evening, of course.)

"His messaging about the Trump thing has just been ridiculous,” Taylor said. “It’s almost insulting to Virginians’ intelligence.”

“He’s reaching so much to try to tie Glenn to Trump, and I think it’s failing, frankly,” he added.

Komar, meanwhile, will be watching to see how many of the Democrats who hoisted Northam to victory in 2017 show up this time around — the first real test of Democratic turnout in the post-Trump era. Even a narrow McAuliffe victory would be a positive sign heading into the midterms, he argued.

“If we can win statewide in Virginia by two, that means the Democratic coalition is showing up, holding together, a few point drop-off from 2017," when Northam won by nine points but otherwise Democrats such as Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax prevailed by smaller margins, he said. "That’s a good sign for Democrats.”

There's always time for a fundraiser: McAuliffe found time to stop in Washington's Cleveland Park neighborhood ahead of Tuesday evening's rally for a fundraiser benefitting his campaign headlined by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, according to an invitation obtained by The Post. Tickets ranged from $2,500 to $10,000. Valet parking was provided, according to the invitation.

On the Hill

Democrats still divided on tax proposals to pay for budget bill

The long and winding road: Democrats insist they're closer than they seem to a deal on their mammoth child care, health care and climate change bill, but lawmakers continued to clash just days before Biden is set to depart for a foreign trip, making it possible that he'll arrive at the United Nations climate summit next week without even the outline of agreement in hand.

  • "Two days before the trip, Democratic lawmakers in the nation’s capital still had failed to resolve some of their most intractable disputes. Talks advanced between the party’s warring moderate and liberal factions, but they still appeared far apart on their plans to expand healthcare coverage, invest in green energy, provide paid leave to all Americans and overhaul the tax code," our colleague Tony Romm reports.
  • “The White House has told allies in Congress that climate change programs in Democrats' spending bill will range between $500 billion and $555 billion, according to four sources familiar with the negotiations,” Politico's Zack Colman and Laura Barrón-López report. “While the package will exclude Democrats' proposed system of payments and penalties to push power companies to increase renewable energy, the plan being developed” would allow Biden to show up in Glasgow with something.

More pay-fors, more problems: Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.) "threw a new wrench into the gears when he announced at [an] Economic Club [of Washington] event that he had single-handed vetoed a key Democratic proposal to increase tax revenue by requiring banks to report a much wider swath of financial activity to the IRS," our Mike DeBonis and John Wagner report.

  • Two other pay-fors under consideration — a billionaires' income tax and a new corporate minimum tax — have "faced skepticism among House Democrats, who questioned their feasibility, and both were likely to encounter legal and constitutional challenges," the New York Times's Jonathan Weisman reports.

The Data

Democrats’s breakup with Iowa, visualized: Biden is not a big fan. Former Democratic National Committee chair Tom Perez is openly opposed. And elsewhere in the Democratic inner sanctum, disdain for Iowa’s first-in-the-nation presidential caucus has been rising for years,” our colleague Michael Scherer reports

  • “Now the day of reckoning for Iowa Democrats is fast approaching, as the national party starts to create a new calendar for the 2024 presidential nomination that could remove Iowa from its privileged position for the first time since 1972, when candidates started flocking to the state for an early jump on the race to the White House.”
  • “The caucuses’s reputation has been damaged by high barriers to participation, a dearth of racial diversity, the rightward drift in the state’s electorate and a leftward drift in the Democratic participants. The state party’s inability to count the results in 2020 only deepened dismay in the party.”
  • “Iowa had no friends before the 2020 race, or it had very few friends. And it certainly doesn’t have any friends after the 2020 race,” a Democrat told our colleague.

The Media

What we’re reading: 


Another #Megxit: 

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