Biden makes two false claims about Virginia election history

Biden makes two false claims about Virginia election history
Alex Brandon/AP

Democrat Terry McAuliffe’s hopes of returning as governor of Virginia were dashed Tuesday when Glenn Youngkin became the first Republican to win statewide office in the commonwealth since 2009. Youngkin’s victory comes as President Joe Biden’s approval ratings have sagged and Democrats have struggled to deliver a clear message.

Addressing the election only briefly during a press conference Wednesday, Biden attempted to cast the situation in a positive light. However, his remarks weren’t entirely accurate.

McAuliffe’s vote totals

Asked about the results in Virginia, Biden suggested that when compared to past Democratic candidates McAuliffe actually did well, despite his loss.

“He got 600,000 more votes than any Democrat ever has gotten,” Biden said. “More votes than ever has been cast for a Democratic incumbent — I mean, not incumbent — a Democrat running for governor.”

Facts First: This is false. McAuliffe did receive more votes than any other previous Virginia Democratic gubernatorial candidate but not 600,000 more.

As of 7:29 p.m. on November 4, McAuliffe had received 1,588,331 votes, almost 200,000 more than Ralph Northam received in 2017 and around 519,000 more than what McAuliffe himself received in 2013.

Electoral history

Biden further attempted to defend McAuliffe, saying, “No governor in Virginia has ever won when he is of the same — where he or she is the same party as the sitting President.”

Facts First: This is false, although Virginia does have a history of electing governors in off-year elections who are from the opposite party of the occupant of the White House.

McAuliffe’s victory in 2013 marked the first time a governor of the same party as the sitting President was elected since 1973, when Mills Godwin, a former Democratic governor of Virginia who switched his party affiliation to Republican, won with a Republican in the White House. Godwin’s predecessor, Republican Linwood Holton, also won when a Republican was president. Before Holton, at least five Democratic governors in Virginia were elected while the sitting President was also a Democrat.

The White House declined to comment on either claim.

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