Biden dismisses hecklers at Virginia event: ‘This is not a Trump rally. Let ’em holler’

·3 min read
Joe Biden participates in a campaign event for Virginia gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe at Lubber Run Park in Arlington, Virginia, U.S., July 23, 2021. (REUTERS)
Joe Biden participates in a campaign event for Virginia gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe at Lubber Run Park in Arlington, Virginia, U.S., July 23, 2021. (REUTERS)

President Joe Biden dismissed hecklers at a campaign event for former Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe, who’s running for the same office he left in January 2018.

Virginia governors are by state law not allowed to run for consecutive terms, but a former governor can retake the office in a future election.

Mr Biden was speaking in Arlington, just outside of Washington DC, on Friday when a group of people started yelling, interrupting the president’s speech.

Reporters at the event said the group was yelling “stop line 3” in reference to a Minnesota oil pipeline project.

The crowd present appeared to try to stand up for the president, booing the yelling group, and chanting “Let’s go, Joe!”

Mr Biden urged his supporters to calm down and ignore the protesters.

“That’s OK, that’s all right,” Mr Biden said. “No, no, no, no. Let ’em talk. That’s OK. Look, this is not a Trump rally. Let ’em holler. No one’s paying attention.”

Mr Biden was back on the campaign trail, stumping for a candidate for the first time since becoming president. Mr McAuliffe is running to get his old job back against Republican nominee Glenn Youngkin, a political rookie who became wealthy after working in private equity.

The race is considered to be competitive despite the state moving towards the Democrats in recent years.

“You’re not gonna find anyone, I mean anyone, who knows how to get more done for Virginia than Terry,” Mr Biden said. “Off-year election, the country’s looking. This is a big deal.”

While Mr Biden’s speech in support of Mr McAuliffe only involved a short jaunt from the White House, his in-person pitch to 3,000 McAuliffe supporters shows the significance the Virginia governor's race has among political insiders.

It’s giving the parties a chance to figure out what kind of a message will work in the post-2020 political landscape ahead of the 2022 midterms.

Adrienne Elrod was a senior adviser to Hillary Clinton during her 2016 presidential campaign and she also worked on Mr Biden’s inauguration.

“It’s an important test for the Biden administration,” she told the Associated Press. “The margins are so small, and he needs to be able to use his clout to help candidates get across the finish line.”

“His message is simple – that he is delivering on promises on vaccines, record job growth and infrastructure," she added.

Mr Biden tried to link Mr Youngkin to former President Donald Trump, who lost to Mr Biden in Virginia in 2020, garnering 44 per cent of the vote in the state.

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“Terry and I share a lot in common. I ran against Donald Trump and so is Terry. And I whipped Donald Trump in Virginia and so will Terry,” Mr Biden said. “I tell you what, the guy Terry is running against is an acolyte of Donald Trump—for real, I mean it’s just like, I don’t know where these guys come from.”

Slamming the Republicans, Mr Biden said the party “offers nothing more than fear, lies and broken promises".

Mr Youngkin has tried to frame his candidacy as more moderate than that of Mr Trump but still said he was “honoured” to receive the former president’s endorsement.

“With the Democratic nominee being so philosophically close and similar to Biden, many may see Virginia as a stronger bellwether than usual,” political science professor Mark Rozell at George Mason University told the AP.

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