President Joe Biden took the stage at a campaign rally in Virginia on Tuesday, stumping for Democratic gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe while painting the race as an urgent referendum on Trumpism throughout the Republican Party.
McAuliffe is locked in a fierce battle for the governor’s mansion against GOP candidate Glenn Youngkin, with polls showing the pair neck and neck before the election next week. For Democrats, the race has become a high-stakes rallying cry to shore up support for the Biden agenda, while Republicans have crafted the fight as the first major chance to retake momentum going into next year’s midterm elections.
“You all know the stakes. You don’t have to wonder what kind of governor Terry will be because you know what a great governor he was,” Biden said Tuesday. “But look, how well do you know Terry’s opponent? I ran against Donald Trump, and Terry’s running against an acolyte of Donald Trump.”
Virginians head to the polls on Nov. 2 in one of the first statewide elections since Biden won the White House in 2020.
Republican candidates haven’t been able to escape the pull of the former president, who looms large over the election landscape amid ongoing probes into the Jan. 6 attack.
Youngkin has painted himself as a moderate but has drawn criticism for his refusal to completely disavow Trump’s efforts to undermine the results of the 2020 presidential election. The GOPer has also pledged to focus on so-called “election integrity,” feeding into ongoing Republican dog whistles about nonexistent voter fraud.
“To win the Republican nomination, he embraced Donald Trump,” Biden said. “Talk about an oxymoron: Donald Trump and election integrity? I can’t believe he puts the words Trump and integrity in the same sentence.”
McAuliffe, who served as Virginia’s governor from 2014 to 2018, has pledged to make it easier to vote, protect abortion rights and increase support for teachers while raising the minimum wage.
Biden leaned into his criticism of Youngkin later in his speech, saying Virginians should “know better,” while pointing to McAuliffe’s past run as governor in his appeal to voters.
“Extremism can come in many forms. It can come in the rage of a mob driven to assault the Capitol. It can come in a smile in a fleece vest,” Biden said, a direct attack against Youngkin’s campaign garb. “But the big lie is a lie. So Virginia, show up. Show up like you did for Barack and me. Show up like you did for me and Kamala. Show up for Terry McAullife.”
“Virginia, you can’t take anything for granted,” the president added: “So vote.”
This article originally appeared on HuffPost and has been updated.