By STEVE PEOPLES and SARAH RANKIN, Related Press
RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Republican Glenn Youngkin wants Donald Trump. He simply does not need to say the identify.
On the controversy stage Tuesday evening, the Republican candidate in Virginia‘s governor’s race repeatedly sidestepped comparisons to the previous president. Youngkin prevented Trump’s most aggressive speaking factors on election fraud, border safety and significant race principle. He additionally tried to dodge a query about whether or not he would assist one other Trump presidential bid, although Youngkin finally stated he would.
“You’re working towards me. It’s Terry McAuliffe towards Glenn Youngkin,” Youngkin advised his Democratic opponent. “The one individual invoking Trump is you.”
Few Republicans in recent times have harnessed the vitality of the Trump base with such cool rhetoric. And there may be concern inside Youngkin’s marketing campaign that Trump or his loyalists might flip towards Youngkin within the days earlier than the Nov. 2 election. But when Youngkin is profitable, his capability to navigate the fragile politics of the post-Trump presidency might supply the GOP a brand new playbook earlier than subsequent yr’s midterm elections.
Whereas there isn’t any scarcity of Republican candidates combating for Trump’s assist, one other wing of the celebration is raring to maneuver on, particularly in states the place the GOP is reeling from painful losses beneath Trump’s watch final fall. Management of Congress in 2022 will probably be determined not in Trump strongholds, however in swing states such Arizona, Georgia, Florida, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.
“To date, Glenn Youngkin has danced on the sting of a razor, and he’s not gotten reduce,” stated John Fredericks, who led Trump’s Virginia marketing campaign final yr. “He’s holding the Trump base collectively.”
Polls recommend that Youngkin’s technique might work. He’s in an in depth race with McAuliffe, a former governor and Democratic powerhouse within the state with many years of expertise in nationwide politics.
McAuliffe has a fragile steadiness of his personal to navigate as President Joe Biden’s favorable scores fall and the Democrats’ agenda falters in Congress. Each side privately acknowledge that Virginia Republicans appear to have an enthusiasm benefit within the marketing campaign’s closing days.
McAuliffe stated within the debate that the value tag of Biden’s want listing is “too excessive.”
Biden campaigned in Virginia on McAuliffe’s behalf in July earlier than the president’s numbers started to sink. The McAuliffe marketing campaign stated he would welcome one other presidential go to, however nothing is scheduled.
Youngkin has had little to do with Trump publicly since securing the GOP nomination in Could. The nominee has been content material to let McAuliffe’s marketing campaign spotlight Trump’s endorsement in Democrat-funded marketing campaign adverts. Youngkin will not be planning to attend a rally subsequent month hosted by Trump loyalists by which Trump is predicted to make an look by cellphone.
Youngkin’s marketing campaign stays in shut contact with Trump’s crew behind the scenes, nonetheless. A minimum of a dozen Youngkin staffers beforehand labored for the Trump marketing campaign or in his administration. Lest there be any query that they are in shut contact, textual content messages despatched by The Related Press to a Trump aide in latest days have been answered by Youngkin workers.
“Youngkin’s marketing campaign has been in common communication with the president’s political crew. Any suggestion in any other case is fake,” stated Trump spokesperson Taylor Budowich. “The president is taking a look at the best choices to assist propel Youngkin to victory as his marketing campaign continues to surge.”
In fact, the Trump base could also be extra prepared to forgive Youngkin’s technique in Virginia than in different states.
Whereas Virginia has lengthy been thought of a swing state, a Republican has not gained statewide workplace in 12 years. Trump misplaced the state by 5 proportion factors in 2016 and 10 factors in 2020 as girls and suburban voters specifically rejected his divisive management.
“We’ve obtained to get a win,” Fredericks stated in explaining his embrace of Youngkin. “Let’s battle later.”
In latest months, Youngkin has centered on extra conventional kitchen desk points resembling taxes, crime and training, as an alternative of Trump’s model of shock-and-awe politics. However that wasn’t all the time the case.
Youngkin made “election integrity” — code for Trump’s false claims of election fraud — the centerpiece of his marketing campaign through the nominating contest within the spring. In February, when requested by The Washington Submit if Biden was legitimately elected, Youngkin declined to say.
Because the nomination was settled, Youngkin has acknowledged Biden’s win and principally centered on different matters. He reiterated throughout Tuesday’s debate that “there wasn’t materials fraud” and that “the election was certifiably honest.”
In his tv adverts, Youngkin has stayed away from tradition battle points widespread with the conservative base, specializing in his household and his biography, together with his time as co-CEO of a personal fairness agency. Sticking to a standard conservative coverage agenda, he guarantees to chop taxes, create jobs and sort out rising crime.
In marketing campaign speeches, he typically says he’ll make Virginia “the most effective place to dwell, work and lift a household.”
As for Trump, Youngkin has stated he was “honored” to obtain the previous president’s endorsement, although he prevented such statements on stage this week. In a single interview typically highlighted by McAuliffe’s marketing campaign, Youngkin stated Trump “represents a lot of why” he’s working.
Youngkin gave the impression to be much less enthusiastic in regards to the endorsement when pressed by a reporter throughout a marketing campaign cease this month at a grocery retailer, the place he was selling a tax reduce plan.
“Initially, I’m the one working for governor this yr. I’m on the poll,” Youngkin stated when requested whether or not he was “proud” to have the endorsement. The reporter adopted up twice, and Youngkin prevented answering instantly.
Together with his brow furrowed as he spoke, Youngkin stated he was “working for everybody.” He stated he had been endorsed by “a lot of folks” and repeated twice, “I’ve introduced so many individuals collectively over this time interval,” earlier than lastly including that he was “more than happy” to get Trump’s endorsement.
Republican state Sen. Amanda Chase, an ardent supporter of election fraud conspiracy theories, stated Youngkin has “finished a extremely good job of making an attempt to string the needle.”
Chase, who competed towards Youngkin for the Republican nomination, stated she’s heard from some supporters who would really like Youngkin to take a harder stance on abortion, gun rights and “election integrity.” However, finally, she thinks Youngkin is constructing a profitable coalition.
“I actually really feel like Glenn is bringing collectively all elements of the Republican Celebration — the Trump supporters, the moderates, the enterprise Republicans, all of the teams,” she stated. “I congratulate him on that.”
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