Press Club

President Biden stumps for McAuliffe at campaign event near Pentagon City

On a gusty, very brisk fall evening, President Joe Biden once again visited Arlington to campaign for Terry McAuliffe.

“You don’t need to imagine how great a governor Terry McAuliffe will be because you know how great a governor he was,” Biden said, standing next to a basketball court at Virginia Highlands Park near Pentagon City.

With only a week until the general election and the former — and possibly future — governor clinging to a very narrow lead in polls over his Republican opponent Glenn Youngkin, it certainly is notable that Biden is making his second Arlington appearance alongside McAuliffe in three months.

“The fact that he’s doubled down on McAuliffe is either a great sign or an ominous sign, depending on which side of the aisle you fall on,” Arlington Heights resident Tony Yang mused as he stood in the security line waiting to enter the event.

After McAuliffe made his remarks, Biden walked on the stage just after 8 p.m. and spoke for about 17 minutes. He spoke of McAuliffe’s record of Democratic leadership, often comparing Youngkin to former President Trump, and vouching for the Build Back Better plan that he’s trying to get passed in Congress.

He even dropped a specific Arlington reference about the planned new rail bridge that would replace the 117-year-old Long Bridge.

Biden also cracked the same joke he did in July about McAuliffe possibly being First Lady Jill Biden’s boss, due to her being a professor at Northern Virginia Community College, part of the state’s community college system.

Afterwards, the president did a photo line with a number of elected officials and candidates, while also taking selfies with a number of attendees near the stage.

The crowd — estimated by the White House at 2,500 people — was somewhat subdued throughout the nearly hour and a half event, perhaps due to the wind gusts and temperatures dipping into the low 50s.

Security was somewhat tight, though that didn’t stop Biden’s remarks being interrupted at least three times by protestors relating to the Line 3 pipeline, citizenship, and another matter that wasn’t immediately clear.

Prior to the event and outside of the park, a few Youngkin supporters made their case for their candidate while someone waved a giant Trump flag. There were also several PETA protesters dressed in blow-up dinosaur costumes to criticize the National Institutes of Health and the Biden administration for conducting experiments on animals.

The Younkin supporters, including Arlington GOP Communications Director Matthew Hurtt, could be seen holding signs saying “Virginia Runs on Youngkin” and “More Like Terry McAwful.”

Besides Biden and McAuliffe, a who’s who of Virginia Democrats spoke Tuesday evening in support of the ticket: Senator Tim Kaine, Rep. Don Beyer, Virginia Speaker of the House Eileen Filler-Corn, lieutenant governor candidate Hala Ayala, Attorney General Mark Herring (who didn’t mention his lawsuit against Advanced Towing), current governor Ralph Northam, and Arlington County Board Chair Matt de Ferranti.

“Donald Trump is on the ballot next Tuesday,” said de Ferranti, also attaching Youngkin to Trump.

For some, having an event of this nature featuring a sitting U.S. president in their neighborhood was an experience that couldn’t be missed.

“It’s not a common thing that there’s a rally for a candidate you support is, literally, right by your house,” said Hania Basat, who lives in Pentagon City. “To have the president too, that’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”

Shelly Quintanilla agreed. She lives in Pentagon City with her husband and two young sons, ages six and one. For her, this rally was a chance to show democracy in action.

“We were really excited for the learning opportunity for the kids,” she said. “It’s better than school to learn about the president, the government, and our chance to get involved.”

For others, though, seeing the president — who arrived and departed via motorcade over the 14th Street Bridge — wasn’t that big of a deal.

“We have senators, congressmen, and Al Gore. He used to live up [there],” said Jim Kohlmoos, referring to the former vice president’s one-time residence in the nearby Arlington Ridge neighborhood. “We’re pretty much used to all of this.”

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