Former President Donald Trump sent out a press release Friday morning praising Virginia’s Republican gubernatorial candidate, Glenn Youngkin.
“Wow, the numbers are really looking good for Glenn Youngkin in his race against Terry McAuliffe for Governor of Virginia,” Trump said in the statement. “Glenn has been an incredible success and will truly Make Virginia Great Again.”
This is the second time since earning the nomination that Youngkin has received a statement of support from the former president. The day after Youngkin became the official nominee in May, Trump sent out an endorsement message. “Glenn is pro-business, pro-second Amendment, pro-veterans, pro-America, he knows how to make Virginia’s economy rip-roaring, and he has my complete and total endorsement,” Trump said at the time.
Youngkin’s campaign told Virginia Scope in May that they had not sought Trump’s endorsement at the time. It is unclear if Trump will continue to try and stump for Youngkin on his own, or if the Youngkin campaign will seek his help. Sources with knowledge of the situation say that Trump has an ambitious list of candidates and they are unsure if he will visit Virginia or not.
A former president’s endorsement and continued support historically would benefit the candidate of the same party in battleground states. But Virginians sent a strong, repeated rebuke of Trump over the last four years at the ballot box. In addition to Trump losing Virginia by 10 points to President Biden last year, Virginia Republicans suffered huge losses During Trump’s time in office — Democrats were able to flip 21 seats in the House of Delegates, two state Senate seats, three congressional seats, and they cruised to victory in three statewide races including the 2017 gubernatorial race.
In the Friday statement, Trump also directly attacked Youngkin’s Democratic opponent, former-Governor Terry McAuliffe. Trump paired McAuliffe with his close ally, the 2016 failed presidential nominee Hillary Clinton. “[Youngkin] is a highly respected person, not just a figurehead like Virginia’s current and recent past Governors. Terry McAuliffe was a failed and unpopular Governor, whose only claim to fame was his relationship with Crooked Hillary Clinton—how did that work out?” Trump wrote. Clinton won Virginia by five points in 2016.
Trump then referenced the financial contributions that he gave to McAuliffe in the past and says he knew McAuliffe “well” before becoming president. “I knew McAuliffe well. He accepted large campaign contributions from me, said only great things and would do whatever I wanted, until I ran for office.”
McAuliffe responded to the statement from Trump in a tweet. “I know how honored you are to have his endorsement, Glenn. Lying to voters, screwing over people with your businesses — you have so much in common. I’d bet one more thing: a resounding rejection from VA voters in November,” McAuliffe wrote.
Matt Wolking, a spokesperson for the Youngkin campaign provided Virginia Scope with a statement after the news broke Friday morning. “Terry McAuliffe knows he can’t beat Glenn Youngkin, which is why he is so desperate to run against someone else,” Wolking said. “The trouble for Terry is that he’s a total fraud who took $25,000 from Donald Trump, hugged Donald Trump, toasted Donald Trump, and now pretends like he hasn’t been friends with him for nearly three decades. Terry is as slimy as Bill Clinton and as dishonest as Hillary Clinton, which makes sense because they’re his two mentors.”
Renzo Olivari, a spokesperson for McAuliffe says this latest statement adds to a week of bad press for the Youngkin campaign. “Glenn Youngkin’s campaign is having a terrible week between his shocking admission he is lying to voters about his agenda and the continued scrutiny of Carlyle’s predatory behavior while he was Co-CEO,” Olivari said. “The Youngkin campaign clearly welcomes this distraction from their number one endorser Donald Trump, but this is just another reminder of how out-of-touch Glenn is with Virginia voters.”
Dave Wasserman, an election forecaster and editor at Cook Political Report called this statement from Trump an “in-kind donation to McAuliffe.” Wasserman then continued to discuss the race. “I began the general thinking Youngkin had a decent chance if he ran as a “check and balance” on Richmond and proactively created distance between himself and Trump. But so far, his message has been an incoherent mishmash. Still early, but pretty underwhelming so far.”
Trump’s statement isn’t tone-deaf to the current atmosphere of Republican talking points in Virginia. “Rarely have I seen such enthusiasm. Virginia has so much potential but has been badly hurt by awful economic policy, terrible crime, and the worst education system promoting Critical Race Theory, etc. But, Glenn will fix this immediately,” Trump said Friday.
Dr. Stephen Farsnworth, a political science professor and director in the Center for Leadership and Media Studies at Mary Washington University says Trump’s involvement in any way does not benefit Youngkin. “The more that former President Trump weighs in on the Virginia governor’s race, the worse it is for Youngkin,” Dr. Farsnworth said in an interview. “Youngkin has been trying to offer himself as a different kind of Republican, one not tied to the partisan trench warfare of Washington. But Trump steps on that message every time he weighs in on Virginia politics.”
McAuliffe, Youngkin, and Independent candidate Princess Blanding face off to find out who will be Virginia’s next governor on Nov. 2.
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