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by Brandon Jarvis

In what has become a common theme during the last four years, anti-Trump Republicans are endorsing the Democratic candidate in a high-profile race. A long list of Virginia Republicans announced their support of Terry McAuliffe over his Republican opponent Glenn Youngkin Tuesday.

Conservative analyst Bill Kristol is the most high-profile cross-over for McAuliffe on the list. He served in Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush’s presidential administrations and has been supporting Democrats since Donald Trump became president.

Kristol is also a founding director of a group called ‘Republicans Voters Against Trump‘ and has openly said he will not support Republicans that align too closely with the former president. He endorsed Biden in 2020.

Kristol represents a key demographic that Virginia Republicans will need to win in November.

Youngkin is forced to walk the tightrope of not alienating the Trump-loving base while also keeping the moderate faction of the party, people like Kristol, satisfied. He has to bring new voters to the Republican Party in a commonwealth that saw Democrats make enormous gains during Trump’s presidency by flipping the state legislature and voting for Joe Biden by 10 points.

Kristol doesn’t specifically cite Trump in his endorsement statement that was released through the McAuliffe campaign. “We’ve lived in Virginia for 35 years. Most of our kids and grandkids live here,” the statement from Kristol reads. “We need a governor who takes public health seriously and keeps our economy strong. I’m confident Terry McAuliffe will do both. I have no such confidence in the Republican nominee. Mr. Youngkin seems unwilling to take on the most extreme wing of his own party on vaccinations, and he’s embraced reckless fiscal policies that have failed elsewhere.”

Former Republican state Delegate David Ramadan is another new endorser of McAuliffe. Ramadan has been very vocal with his distaste for Trump and any Republicans that supported him. The Virginia Republican Twitter account blocked Ramadan in 2018 after his criticism of the former president and his supporters.

“As co-founder and co-chairman of the Business Development Caucus in the Virginia General Assembly, I worked closely with Terry to advance a pro-jobs economy,” Ramadan said in his endorsement of McAuliffe. “Terry is a committed public servant who always puts what is right for Virginia and our economy first, and he’s shown that again with his leadership on COVID-19 and vaccines.”

Another former delegate that co-founded the Business Development Caucus (BDC) with Ramadan pushed back against his statement, however. “As co-founder & Chairman Emeritus of the Business Development Caucus & as Director of BDC Founders PAC let me be clear,” tweeted Mike Watson, a former Republican delegate from Williamsburg. “Terry McAuliffe & his [administration] fought against the BDC pro-jobs agenda at every opportunity & we reject any suggestion otherwise.”

Watson’s pushback shows the divide in the GOP that Youngkin has to unite. Watson has been a vocal supporter of both Trump and Youngkin. After losing his reelection bid in 2013, he remains relevant in Virginia politics by appearing on conservative talk radio shows. 

“I’m a hopeless political junkie but couldn’t give two shites about this Schiff show & refuse to subject myself to pathetic hacks trying to overturn a 3-yr old election,” Watson tweeted in 2020. “2 important facts: Hunter Biden is unqualified to serve on any board any where & Epstein did not kill himself.” 

The list of Republican supporters for McAuliffe includes 17 people spanning from the local to national level. 

“These endorsements are important because they give other Republicans [who are] unhappy with Trump, the opportunity to vote for McAuliffe,” said Dr. Stephen Farnsworth, a professor of political science at Mary Washington University “It’s not a game-changer or anything, nearly every Republican will vote the Republican line and nearly every Democrat will do the same, but at the margins, it is better to have cross-partisan support than not.” 

Polling in the race has been close with McAuliffe showing a lead ranging from three to seven points, depending on the poll. 

While noting that the list might not include many influential members of the Republican party anymore, Richard Meagher, a political science professor at Randolph Macon College applauded the move from the McAuliffe campaign. “The campaign can use this list to continue to tell the story they want to tell about Youngkin – that he’s a Trump man through-and-through.” 

Meagher also noted, however, the potential risks for McAuliffe by touting these endorsements too much. “His biggest threat to victory is a decline in Democratic enthusiasm. It might not be the best idea to remind progressives that there are plenty of Republicans who will be comfortable with returning him to office,” Meagher said. 

McAuliffe said he is proud of the coalitions that his campaign is building. 

“I am proud to be building an unmatched, broad coalition of leaders who share my vision to move Virginia forward,” McAuliffe said in a statement Tuesday. “COVID has given Virginia unprecedented challenges, but by working together and showing real leadership, I know we can get big things done — creating good-paying jobs, investing in infrastructure, and giving every child a world-class education. We did it before, and we’ll do it again.”

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By vascope