AP FACT CHECK: Biden skews history in explaining Va. setback

Joe Biden, Terry McAuliffe
Posted at 10:07 AM, Nov 05, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-05 10:07:38-04

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden mangled Virginia's political history this week as he tried to brush off his party's big loss in that state's race for governor.

Biden contended that Democrat Terry McAuliffe could not have been expected to win because Virginia always elects governors from the party not in the White House. But that's not so.

BIDEN: “No governor in Virginia has ever won when he’s of the same, or he or she’s the same party, as the sitting president.” — remarks Wednesday.

THE FACTS: Not true.

While Virginia has a recent pattern of electing governors of the opposite party, McAuliffe himself defied that trend in 2013 by winning the governor’s mansion when fellow Democrat Barack Obama was president.

The election at the time made McAuliffe the only Virginia candidate for governor in four decades to win when his party occupied the White House. A. Linwood Holton Jr., an attorney and moderate Republican, previously won the governorship in 1969 when Republican Richard Nixon was president.

Holton was followed by Mills Godwin, a longtime Democrat who won a nonconsecutive second term as governor in 1973 after switching his party affiliation during the campaign to Republican.

Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics, worked on the 1973 campaign as a college student. He said Godwin waited until the Republican state convention before formally switching parties and accepting the GOP nomination.

“He wanted to run as an independent," Sabato said.

On Tuesday, Glenn Youngkin became the first Republican to win statewide office in a dozen years, tapping into culture war fights over schools and race to unite former President Donald Trump’s most fervent supporters with enough suburban voters to notch a victory.