President Biden returned to the campaign trail on Friday night, stumping both for Virginia’s 2021 Democratic candidate for governor Terry McAuliffe and an overall case for Democrats in the 2022 midterms. 

“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 family,” Mr. Biden said to a crowd of about 500 in Arlington, Virginia. “As Democrats, we have to show we do understand and we’re keeping our promises. We just have to keep making the case, even as Republicans party today offers nothing but fear and lies and broken promises.”

While talking about the January 6 attack on the Capitol, Mr. Biden said Democrats “have to keep cutting through the Republican fog that government is the problem and show that ‘We the people’ are the solution.'”

Mr. Biden also touched on the rising cases of COVID-19 across the country, repeating his line from earlier in the week that it’s a “pandemic of the unvaccinated.” He praised Alabama Governor Kay Ivey, a Republican, and other conservatives who are advocating for vaccines for having an “altar call” and “seen the Lord,” but he was interrupted by hecklers in the crowd. 

McAuliffe is attempting to break the trend of the party in charge of the White House losing Virginia’s governor’s race in the following year — something he did when he won his first term in 2013.  Mr. Biden won the state by more than 450,000 votes in 2020, and Virginia voting Democratic in every presidential election since 2008, but the state’s off-year elections for governor and the House of Delegates remain competitive. 

Virginia’s elections are always held only one year after the presidential election, but Mr. Biden hit the trail early even by those standards. Former President Obama first hit the trail for Democratic candidate Robert Deeds in August 2009.

McAuliffe’s Republican opponent, Trump-backed Glenn Youngkin, is a former CEO of the Carlyle Group who has set a goal to raise $75 million for this race, though not clarifying how much he would self loan his campaign. Two Republican polls conducted in July have Youngkin trailing McAuliffe by 5 points or less.

On Thursday, the Democratic National Committee announced a $5 million investment for Virginia’s 2021 races, as well as to “pilot key programming ahead of the 2022 midterms.” 

“This feels a lot like 2009,” former South Carolina Republican Governor and potential 2024 candidate Nikki Haley said at a campaign stop with Youngkin in mid-July, referencing the last time Republicans won statewide in Virginia. “Everything has swung so far left, and we need to normalize it again.”

On the campaign trail, Youngkin and Republicans have been looking to use McAuliffe’s decades in Democratic politics against him, portraying him as a “political insider” and saying Virginia needs different leadership to steer the state’s economy through COVID-19 and a rising inflation rate.

Democrats have looked to dispel this attack by referencing CNBC’s 2021 ranking of Virginia as the top state for business and the state’s surplus under Democratic leadership. 

Republicans are casting a wide net on their messaging, from public safety and law enforcement, to relitigating the reopening of schools, to supporting voter ID law changes and amping up animosity towards “critical race theory” being brought up in schools. 

“Our country’s future will be made by Virginia’s present,” Youngkin said while opening his Richmond, Virginia, headquarters. “We’re going to see very clearly, Virginia is standing up and saying, ‘No. We in fact are going to reject the left liberal progressive policies that are dragging our country down.'”

Meanwhile, Mr. Biden and McAuliffe honed in McAuliffe’s first term as governor, as well as on Youngkin’s ties to former President Trump, who polarized suburban swing voters during his term as president.

“I’m standing here before you tonight to tell you about my plans to move Virginia forward. And as we did before, we will create great jobs, we’ll make healthcare more affordable, and we’ll give every single child a world class education,” McAuliffe said Friday.

McAuliffe’s first TV ad began airing Wednesday, more than a month after Youngkin first got on the air. It notes jobs created under McAuliffe’s tenure and blasts Youngkin for not being “a reasonable Republican. He is a loyalist to Donald Trump.”

Mr. Trump endorsed Youngkin shortly after he won the GOP nomination in May, and the former president praised Youngkin and continued his baseless claims of widespread voter fraud by warning to “watch the ‘vote counters’ in Virginia. He also criticized Ed Gillespie, the 2017 Republican gubernatorial nominee, for not “embracing” his base and losing the election.

“They didn’t come out for Gillespie, nor did I do anything to help or hurt. He got creamed!” Mr. Trump wrote in a July statement.

“I ran against Donald Trump and so is Terry,” Mr. Biden said Friday. “And I whipped Donald Trump in Virginia and so will Terry.”

Virginia’s general elections are November 2, with early voting starting in September.