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Rep. Jim Clyburn at the Capitol. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Rep. Jim Clyburn rescued Joe Biden's presidential campaign last year, turning out Black voters at a pivotal moment. Now, Democrats are hoping the sage from South Carolina can help pull Terry McAuliffe over the finish line in Virginia.

Why it matters: Calling in Clyburn as a closer ahead of Tuesday's gubernatorial election reflects his enduring status in the party — and Democrats' real worries about turnout despite Biden's 10-point win last November over former President Trump.

  • Hopes that a national $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill championed by Biden could boost McAuliffe were dashed this week when Democratic infighting over a separate $1.75 trillion social spending package delayed final passage.
  • Biden's sinking popularity and some suburban voters' frustrations over school masking and curriculum also have amped GOP enthusiasm.

Driving the news: Clyburn will participate in GOTV events Saturday and Sunday to make his case for electing McAuliffe, a former governor and national party chairman and fundraiser, over Republican businessman Glenn Youngkin. Clyburn's planned stops include several churches.

What they're saying: Clyburn, who is the House majority whip, told Axios his party has fumbled its messaging on the massive social and economic pandemic relief it's delivered already and is on the brink of delivering.

  • "You tell people what you’re going to do for them, then you do it, and then you go back and tell them that you did it," Clyburn said. "We have not done a good job of that."
  • He said he'll offer a Democrat's perspective from Capitol Hill to help voters cut through the noise. "What I’m going to be talking about is, 'Here’s what’s in these packages, here’s what we’re going to pass, and when we pass them you need to have somebody in the governorship that’s going to implement what we pass.'"

The big picture: Virginia's off-year race is being watched as a bellwether for the 2022 congressional midterm elections that will determine whether Democrats keep control of the House and Senate.

The bottom line: "People are beginning to see that this is a contest and it’s not going to be a cake walk," Clyburn said. "You have to give your opponent at least as much credit as you give yourself."

Go deeper

Advocates see "opportunity" in abortion fight to galvanize Democratic voters

Planned Parenthood President Alexis McGill Johnson speaks during an abortion rights rally in October. Photo: Leigh Vogel/Getty Images for Women's March

Abortion rights advocates believe the Supreme Court fight over Mississippi's strict abortion bill has the potential to turn the political script: galvanize Democratic voters, instead of its historic ability to drive turnout among Republicans.

What they're saying: "The opportunity is that people are enraged," Alexis McGill Johnson, president of Planned Parenthood, told Axios in an interview. "What we saw in Texas, and what people will walk away from [the Mississippi oral arguments with], is a level of rage that we could be living in a world six months from now — where our children have fewer rights than we have right now."

McConnell: No legislative agenda for 2022 midterms

Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Mitch McConnell has told colleagues and donors Senate Republicans won't release a legislative agenda before next year's midterms, according to people who've attended private meetings with the minority leader.

Why it matters: Every midterm cycle, there are Republican donors and operatives who argue the party should release a positive, pro-active governing outline around which candidates can rally. McConnell adamantly rejects this idea, preferring to skewer Democrats for their perceived failures.

Movie theaters go out of style

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Vaccination rates are going up, people are going out to restaurants again — although the new COVID variant may get in the way — but they still aren't rushing back to the movies.

By the numbers: Some 49% of pre-pandemic moviegoers are no longer hitting theaters, according to a study from the film research company The Quorum, as reported by the New York Times.