McAuliffe, Murphy Aim to Keep Their States Blue Amid Falling Biden Approval Ratings

New Jersey and Virginia both currently have Democratic governors, but that could change next week after voters finish casting ballots in their states' gubernatorial elections on November 2.

New Jersey and Virginia are the only states with regularly scheduled gubernatorial elections this fall. While recent polling indicates sitting New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy is several points ahead of his Republican competitor, Jack Ciattarelli, polls suggest the race between Democrat Terry McAuliffe and Republican Glenn Youngkin in Virginia is much closer.

Both Democrats are campaigning at a time when criticism of President Joe Biden is high amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, supply chain delays and the recent withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan.

Terry McAuliffe Joe Biden
Democrats Terry McAuliffe and Phil Murphy are campaigning in the Virginia and New Jersey gubernatorial elections taking place on November 2. Above, President Joe Biden is photographed helping Dorothy McAuliffe (L) to the stage while campaigning with Terry McAuliffe (C) at Virginia Highlands Park on October 26, 2021 in Arlington, Virginia. Win McNamee/Getty Images

According to a national Gallup poll conducted earlier this month, Biden's job approval rating has settled to about 42 percent after a steep decline in September, which pollsters noted came in the wake of rising COVID-19 infections and the August troop withdrawal.

Two Monmouth University polls conducted earlier this month of New Jersey and Virginia voters similarly found Biden's approval rating to be at 43 percent among voters of each state.

Biden's current job approval rating is at its lowest point since he took office earlier this year and is 11 points behind the average approval rating for U.S. presidents, Gallup's data showed. When his October approval rating was compared with that of former U.S. presidents at the same point in their first term, only one former president—Donald Trump—had a rating that was lower, according to Gallup's compilation of its historical data collected since the early 1950s.

With New Jersey and Virginia providing the only gubernatorial races this year, many politicians and strategists are looking to the elections for clues about how voters may lean during the 2022 midterms, during which congressional Democrats will strive to retain their slim majorities in the House and Senate. Virginia's race, in particular, has captured extensive national media coverage ahead of Election Day as multiple polls found McAuliffe, who has been endorsed by several high-profile Democrats, tied with Youngkin, who was first endorsed by Trump in May.

Biden won Virginia by more than 10 points and New Jersey by more than 15 points during the 2020 presidential election. The president has encouraged voters in New Jersey and Virginia to support the Democratic candidates and traveled to both states this week to rally voter support, after which each candidate tweeted that they were "honored" by his visit.

Virginia has had a Democrat leading the state since McAuliffe began his first term in office in 2014.

In New Jersey, before Murphy was elected to his first term in 2017, he was preceded by former Republican Governor Chris Christie, who led the state for eight years. According to The Associated Press, it has been several decades since a Democrat was last re-elected to serve a second term as governor in New Jersey.

Newsweek reached out to the Democratic National Committee for comment and will update this article with any response.