President Biden on Wednesday looked to blame anyone but himself for key Democratic setbacks in Tuesday elections.
Citing everything from former President Donald Trump to “very conservative folks who turned out” at the polls to Americans “upset and uncertain” about COVID and rising prices — rather than disapproval of his political agenda — Biden doubled down, calling on Congress to quickly pass his $1.75 trillion spending bill to win back support.
In Virginia, Republican gubernatorial candidate Glenn Youngkin defeated Democrat Terry McAuliffe by more than 2 percentage points, despite Biden winning the state last year by 10 points. The defeat came after Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris and former President Barack Obama all came to rallies in Virginia for McAuliffe.
And Republican Jack Ciattarelli is nearly tied with incumbent Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy in traditionally blue New Jersey despite Biden’s nearly 16 point win there.
“People are upset and uncertain about a lot of things, from COVID to school to jobs to a whole range of things and the cost of a gallon of gasoline,” Biden told reporters on Wednesday afternoon. “And so if I’m able to pass and sign into the law my Build Back Better initiative, I’m in a position where you’re going to see a lot of those things ameliorated quickly and swiftly.”
Republicans and centrist Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WVa.) drew the opposition conclusion from the GOP resurgence, saying that inflation is largely to blame for voter discontent and that Congress shouldn’t rush to pass Biden’s proposed social and environmental spending bill.
Republicans broadly describe the elections as a referendum on Biden’s plunging popularity.
But Biden, who waited nearly a full day to address the election outcome, called on Democrats to pass a $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill and a $1.75 trillion social safety net and environmental package.
“I do know that people want us to get things done. They want us to get things done. And that’s why I’m continuing to push very hard for the Democratic Party to move along and pass my infrastructure bill and my Build Back Better bill,” he said.
Biden appeared to have Trump on his mind — despite his predecessor not visiting Virginia or New Jersey to stump for the Republican candidates.
“I’m not sure that I would be able to have changed the number of very conservative folks who turned out in red districts who are Trump voters,” Biden claimed of the Democratic defeat in Virginia.
Biden mentioned Trump 24 times last week during a 17-minute speech for McAuliffe in northern Virginia. In a post-election statement, Trump said that Democrats blew the election by focusing so heavily on him.
At one point, Biden even joked about Trump unprompted when a reporter’s phone rang on Wednesday.
“If that’s Trump, tell him I’m busy,” the president cracked.
Asked if he erred in focusing on Trump, Biden said, “the reason I mentioned Trump… is because the issues he supports are affecting their lives every day and they are a negative impact on their lives.”
Harris also brushed off the poor results for Democrats, telling reporters during a visit to Capitol Hill on Wednesday that “we had great wins as well” — citing Democrat Eric Adams’ election as New York mayor and Democrat Shontel Brown’s win in a lopsidedly Democratic House special election. Neither race was considered competitive.