'We Blew It': Virginia Democrats Think McAuliffe Would've Won If Infrastructure Came Sooner

Virginia Democratic lawmakers on Sunday blamed the delayed infrastructure bill for former Governor Terry McAuliffe's stinging loss to Republican nominee Glenn Youngkin in the state's gubernatorial election last week.

After months of tense negotiations and delay, the House passed President Joe Biden's sweeping bipartisan infrastructure bill in a 228-206 vote largely along party lines late Friday.

The win for Biden's domestic agenda came just days after Youngkin, a Republican businessman who eluded the shadow of former President Donald Trump, defeated McAuliffe in the closely-watched Virginia gubernatorial race.

"I think congressional Democrats blew the timing. We should have passed these bills in early October. If we had, it would have helped Terry McAuliffe probably win the governor's race," Senator Tim Kaine said on CBS News' Face the Nation Sunday.

"Bluntly, we blew it, and I'm not talking about progressives or moderates or the House or the Senate," the Virginia Democrat added. "The congressional Democrats have majorities in both houses, and the American public expects us to deliver."

Senator Mark Warner, a fellow Virginia Democrat, echoed Kaine's remarks, arguing that McAuliffe would have "absolutely" won if he could have generated enthusiasm among liberals by trumpeting the passage of the infrastructure bill on his campaign trail.

Mark Warner Tim Kaine Democrats Virginia McAuliffe
Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA) (L) and Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) speak about gun control and the recent Virginia Beach shooting after attending the Senate Democrats weekly policy luncheon on Capitol Hill, June 4, 2019 in Washington, DC. Mark Wilson/Getty Images

"What a difference a week makes," Warner also said Sunday on CNN's State of the Union. "I think if we could have been talking about that win, and showing the kind of job creation that actually has been taking place, things might have been different."

The Republican victory in Virginia—and the unexpected closeness of a second gubernatorial election that unfolded in New Jersey on the same night—underscored the vulnerability of the Democrat Party, as Biden's approval ratings dropped to new lows amid his struggles to unify a divided caucus.

Youngkin's win was the first time a Republican had won the governorship in Virginia since 2009.

In the final months of McAuliffe's campaign, the Biden administration and top congressional Democrats were locked in fraught intra-party negotiations over the president's infrastructure and social spending bills.

Moderate Democrats, including Senators Joe Manchin of Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, opposed the size, scope and some priorities in the spending bill, known as the Build Back Better Act, which has still yet to pass. With the Senate split 50-50, their refusal to back the larger social-welfare and climate-spending plan frustrated progressives, who tried to leverage the infrastructure bill to get the larger one passed.

Their divisions did no favors for McAuliffe in a state where Democrats have typically won elections by campaigning on pragmatism and an ability to deliver results.

"We delivered big in March, but that was eight months ago if we had done both of these bills in early October. Terry McAuliffe would have had so much to sell," Kaine said. "We should have gotten them done weeks before the election."

Newsweek reached out to the White House for comment.