Jill Biden makes appearances in high-stakes campaign for the first time as First Lady

The first lady will appear alongside two Democratic gubernatorial candidates who are both locked in contentious battles with their Republican opponents. For Biden – who both candidates have asked to travel to their states for the events, according to an official familiar with the requests – the strain is a familiar arena and the persuasion campaign is one of Biden’s strengths.
Joe Biden’s presidential campaign knew she had a secret weapon in Jill Biden during the 2020 race. In Iowa alone, Jill Biden visited more than 70 counties early in the former’s candidacy. vice president, singing the praises of her husband and his politics. She campaigned there for days, then woke up in the wee hours of Thursday or Friday morning, took a flight from Des Moines to Washington, hopped in an Uber, and was in her classroom at Northern Virginia Community College at 10 a.m.

To the people who were trying to get her husband elected, this is how important Jill Biden was to the campaign. Now, outgoing New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy will also try to capitalize on his powers of persuasion.

Murphy faces Republican challenger Jack Ciattarelli, and the main sticking point is the state’s response to Covid-19. Murphy’s supporters believe he handled the situation well; Ciattarelli’s camp believes New Jersey’s blockades and mask warrants are too restrictive. And on Friday night, Biden will travel from Murphy’s event to Terry McAuliffe’s in Richmond, Va., Where McAuliffe – a longtime friend of Biden’s world – is in a tight race for governor with Republican Glenn Youngkin. , and the issues regarding Covid are much the same.

The two races are the only two gubernatorial elections before next year’s midterms, and both could be harbingers of what Democrats might face in 2022. As such, Jill Biden, the campaign surrogate, enters one of the most controversial political landscapes in recent American history. .

Jill Biden, the “reliable” first lady

Part of Biden’s appeal, says a person who worked with her on the presidential campaign, is his relativity, a boon to undecided voters, especially women.

“Jill was the most effective messenger for Joe Biden and her campaign knew it,” former campaign manager Biden said. “There was a reason she ran three to four solo events a day in those early contests, on Zoom throughout the pandemic, and in the general election. ”

“I think she appeals to working-class and middle-class voters,” says Kate Andersen Brower, first ladies expert and author of “First Women: The Grace and Power of America’s Modern First Ladies.”

“It never felt like Melania Trump could tell you how much a gallon of milk costs in the grocery store, when I think Jill Biden absolutely knows the answer.”

Jill Biden’s occasional familiarity with voters has been her most precious possession. Unlike Michelle Obama, a talented public speaker whose effectiveness at campaign events led Obama staff to nickname her “closest” – and was best known for her stage speeches to a wider audience – the skills Jill Biden’s campaign focused more on the more intimate. premises.

During the presidential campaign, she found she was more effective in coffee shops, libraries or union halls – again unlike Michelle Obama in that she made herself available to local media at the same time. . Jill Biden acknowledged, says another former Biden campaign official, that she could earn free press just by being accessible instead of using fundraising funds for on-air ads.

“The first lady is the best surrogate you can get, especially when she can connect, like Dr Biden, to bread and butter issues like education and child care,” Brower said. , who notes that as First Lady Laura Bush was a prolific fundraiser for Republicans in close races, often hosting small, private and expensive events.

“Usually first ladies have much higher approval ratings, so they may appeal to a larger audience than their husbands. They tend to be less polarizing as they usually don’t speak out on hot political issues,” added Brower.

“There’s nothing she doesn’t do”

Biden is expected to speak for around ten minutes at the Murphy and McAuliffe events on Friday, someone familiar with the planning told CNN. It’s a big, but slight boost for a first lady who, as a political wife for more than four decades, has had to get creative with votes at times.

“There’s nothing she won’t do for her husband, to get him elected,” says a second person who has worked on the Biden campaigns for several years. “You name her, Jill will come out – she will travel, she will have a barbecue in the backyard, she will talk to the angry school board member, she will sit with a senator.”

The challenges of the pandemic were real for both presidential candidates in the 2020 campaign. While much attention was paid to the rallies behind the wheel of Joe Biden, it was Jill Biden who did much more – in solo – racking up a dozen driving events in car parks across the country.

And in March 2020, it was Jill Biden who made Super Tuesday headlines, jumping on stage in California to physically prevent a protester from coming towards her husband.

“I really think her fierce physical defense of her husband is the most memorable moment of all of Biden’s campaigns. She didn’t hesitate,” Brower said. “I think people can relate to that fierce, innate quality of wanting to protect someone you love. In that case, it was physical, but there were times I’m sure it has. wanted to step in and defend him publicly for something he’s done or said he’s been criticized. ”

Friday’s gubernatorial events are likely just a taste of a more robust schedule of campaign events ahead for her as Democrats stare at the midterm elections, the official said, worked with her on the presidential campaign.

“She has this Philly girl character at home, it’s a charm offensive that she knows how to operate on, and it’s not inauthentic,” the person says.

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