WASHINGTON — A brutal loss in blue-leaning Virginia and a too-close-for-comfort race in New Jersey sent divided Democrats in Washington scrambling for answers, Wednesday, and calling for new strategies to unstick a stalled legislative agenda before they sustain more political damage.
Republican Glenn Youngkin edged Democratic former Gov. Terry McAuliffe in the Virginia governor’s race, erasing President Joe Biden’s 10 percentage point margin of victory just a year ago. In New Jersey, heavily favored Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy was neck-and-neck with GOP political newcomer Jack Ciattarelli in a state Biden had carried by 16 percentage points.
The results were ominous for Democrats far beyond those states. The party’s eroding support does not bode well as it clings to narrow House and Senate majorities ahead of midterm elections next year. Elections without presidential races historically mean many lost seats, especially in the House, for the party holding the White House.
Congressional leaders, on Wednesday, tried bolstering the appeal of Biden’s stalled domestic legislation and used the election results to call for action. The two measures — a $1 trillion infrastructure bill and a 10-year, $1.75 trillion package of social and environment initiatives financed largely with taxes on the wealthy and corporations — have been slowed for months by infighting between progressives and moderates.
“I would hope this clarifies everybody’s thinking about how important it is to get these bills behind us,” said Rep. Gerald Connolly, D-Va., who represents some of Washington’s prosperous suburbs. “The time for kvetching is over.”
Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., lamented that some fellow Democrats “wanted to be purist about whatever their own particular goals were, left, right and center.”
Three-quarters of voters said drawn-out negotiations in Washington over Biden’s governing agenda were an important factor in their vote.