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In Virginia, another win for a Biden-style candidate

First Read is your briefing from "Meet the Press" and the NBC Political Unit on the day's most important political stories and why they matter.
Virginia gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe, D-Va., greets supporters after winning the Democratic primary for governor on June 8, 2021, in McLean.
Virginia gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe, D-Va., greets supporters after winning the Democratic primary for governor on June 8, 2021, in McLean.Drew Angerer / Getty Images

WASHINGTON — The experienced, familiar and more moderately-viewed candidate just won Virginia’s Democratic primary for governor. Convincingly.

And if that sounds familiar, it is: Former Gov. Terry McAuliffe won more than 60 percent of the primary vote Tuesday, following current Gov. Ralph Northam (who got 56 percent in the state’s 2017 primary) and President Joe Biden (who got 53 percent there in the 2020 presidential primary).

Also familiar: McAuliffe, like Biden, was as popular with Black voters (or even more so) than the actual Black candidates running.

Now the real comparison will come this fall, when McAuliffe faces off against Republican Glenn Youngkin in the marquee political race of 2021.

But McAuliffe’s success last night raises this question: Why aren’t more Democrats embracing Biden’s brand, especially during these first few months of his presidency? (After all, how many times have you heard the phrase, “I’m a Joe Biden Democrat.”)

We get it: Biden — and McAuliffe and Northam, to lesser degrees — doesn’t exactly mesh with younger, more progressive and more diverse congressional Democrats and Democratic candidates.

But consider:

  • In 2020, Biden ran ahead of most Democratic candidates in competitive states and districts.
  • Autopsy after autopsy has found that “socialism” and “defund the police” did hurt Democratic candidates.
  • And NBC’s Sahil Kapur reports on recent focus group findings that voters have trouble describing what the Democratic Party stands for.

Yet the Joe Biden Coalition — which spans from Abigail Spanberger and Conor Lamb, to Jim Clyburn and Val Demings (who formally announced her Senate bid this morning) — has been a potent and winning coalition for Democrats.

Why aren’t more Democrats embracing it?

Terry McAuliffe sure did.

Then again, there’s another question to ask: Is Biden’s brand even transferrable?

Or does it only apply to Dems like the president (and McAuliffe) who have one foot in the older Democratic Party, and another in the newer version?

Democratic turnout in Virginia exceeds expectations

With most (though not all) of the votes counted in last night’s Democratic gubernatorial primary in Virginia, turnout was more than 480,000.

That’s higher than the Democratic gubernatorial primary of 2009 (319,168), but lower than the Democratic primary of 2017 (542,858).

But that Democratic turnout yesterday even got close to what it was in the first year of Trump’s presidency is something party strategists are touting.

We didn’t see that coming in what was a relatively sleepy primary that was short on attacks and crazy twists and turns.

Data Download: The numbers you need to know today

About 62 percent: Terry McAuliffe’s level of support in the Virginia Democratic gubernatorial primary yesterday

68-32:The Senate vote yesterday to pass a new bill that would boost U.S. competitiveness against China.

6 percent: The share of new coronavirus cases in the U.S. linked to the new Delta variant.

33,555,385: The number of confirmed cases of coronavirus in the United States, per the most recent data from NBC News and health officials. (That’s 13,071 more than yesterday morning.)

601,598: The number of deaths in the United States from the virus so far, per the most recent data from NBC News. (That’s 371 more than yesterday morning.)

303,923,667: The number of vaccine doses administered in the U.S.

39.0 percent: The share of all Americans who are fully vaccinated, per NBC News.

53.1 percent: The share of all American adults over 18 who are fully vaccinated, per CDC.

Tweet of the day

Infrastructure talks collapse: Who didn’t see this coming?

“President Joe Biden's infrastructure talks with Republicans collapsed Tuesday, the lead GOP negotiator said,” per NBC’s Sahil Kapur, Leigh Ann Caldwell and Julie Tsirkin.

“‘I spoke with the president this afternoon, and he ended our infrastructure negotiations,’ Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., said in a statement.

“The end of the talks will increase pressure on Democrats to pass a sweeping package using a special process that doesn't require any Republican votes in the Senate.”

ICYMI: What else is happening in the world

Shannon Pettypiece previews Biden’s trip overseas.

And Mike Memoli and Carol Lee write about Biden’s attempt to brand his foreign policy through a domestic lens.

Democrats have reintroduced legislation to protect abortion access.

Bipartisan negotiators are making real progress on a police reform bill.

The Biden administration is moving quietly to try to close the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay.

Kamala Harris faces tough tasks ahead — and political risks.

HUD will (mostly) reinstate an Obama-era housing discrimination rule that Trump nixed.

It’ll be Jack Ciattarelli for the GOP nominee for governor in New Jersey.