President Joe Biden didn’t seem all that bothered when his speech Friday night at a campaign rally in Virginia was interrupted. Biden was speaking in favor of Virginia Democratic gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe in Arlington when a group of people began yelling. Although what they were yelling isn’t quite clear from the recording, reporters on the ground said they were apparently shouting, “Stop Line 3!” referring to a controversial oil pipeline project in Minnesota.
Immediately the crowd seemed to instinctively come to the president’s defense and tried to drown out the hecklers with boos of their own. And they also started chanting, “Let’s go, Joe!” Biden encouraged his supporters to calm down and not worry about the protesters too much. “That’s OK, that’s all right,” Biden said. “No, no, no, no. Let ’em talk. That’s OK. Look, this is not a Trump rally. Let ’em holler. No one’s paying attention.”
Biden went back on the campaign trail for his first candidate-specific event to speak to nearly 3,000 people in support of McAuliffe, who was governor of Virginia from 2014 to 2018 and now is running against Republican Glenn Youngkin to try to get his old job back. “You’re not gonna find anyone, I mean anyone, who knows how to get more done for Virginia than Terry,” Biden said. “Off-year election, the country’s looking. This is a big deal.”
Biden’s return to the campaign trail illustrates how the Virginia contest is being closely watched in political circles to figure out what message best resonates with voters after the 2020 presidential contest and before the 2022 midterms. “It’s an important test for the Biden administration. The margins are so small, and he needs to be able to use his clout to help candidates get across the finish line,” Adrienne Elrod, a political strategist who worked on Biden’s inaugural, tells the Associated Press. “His message is simple: that he is delivering on promises on vaccines, record job growth and infrastructure.”
Biden didn’t just mention Trump when he was talking about the hecklers, he also made it a central part of his speech by linking McAuliffe’s opponent to the former president. “Terry and I share a lot in common. I ran against Donald Trump and so is Terry. And I whipped Donald Trump in Virginia and so will Terry,” Biden said. “I tell you what, the guy Terry is running against is an acolyte of Donald Trump—for real, I mean it’s just like, I don’t know where these guys come from.”