The subject of Youngkin’s closeness to Trump has been a topic of much debate in the Virginia governor’s race, with former Gov. Terry McAuliffe — the Democratic candidate — seizing on Youngkin’s comment in May that the former president “represents so much of why I’m running.”
McAuliffe’s high-profile Democratic surrogates, too, have criticized Youngkin’s support for Trump and accused him of embracing a more extreme version of conservatism than the type he promotes to Virginia voters at large.
“Extremism can come in many forms. It can come in the rage of a mob driven to assault the Capitol. It can come in a smile and a fleece vest,” President Joe Biden said at a McAuliffe rally last week, a reference to Youngkin’s outfit of choice on the campaign trail.
As the race intensified in recent weeks, Youngkin has largely avoided invoking Trump at official events, instead aiming to cultivate a more moderate image to appeal to Virginia’s swing-voting suburbs. Youngkin distanced himself from a GOP rally in Virginia last month where Trump spoke via telephone and where supporters delivered the Pledge of Allegiance to a U.S. flag that organizers said was present at the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol.
On Monday, Trump argued that “[t]he Fake News and perverts are working over time is to try and convince people that we do not like each other, and therefore, my great and unprecedented Make America Great Again base will not show up to vote.”
Since leaving office, the former president has maintained an almost single-minded focus on perpetuating his false claims that the 2020 election was stolen, and he repeated in his statement Monday that he considered Virginia’s voting system to be compromised.
“I am not a believer in the integrity of Virginia’s elections, lots of bad things went on, and are going on,” Trump said. But he added that “[t]he way you beat it is to flood the system and get out and vote.”
Trump went on to describe Youngkin, a former executive with The Carlyle Group investment firm, as “a good man, a hardworking man, a successful man” who “loves Virginia and wants to cut your taxes, save your children’s education, and many other very good things.”
Just as McAuliffe has emphasized Youngkin’s ties to Trump, the Republican candidate has targeted his Democratic rival on issues including children’s education and critical race theory. Specifically, Youngkin has trumpeted McAuliffe’s remarks at a September debate, when the former governor said: “I don’t think parents should be telling schools what they should teach.”
According to the RealClearPolitics polling average of recent Virginia surveys, Youngkin is 1.6 percentage points ahead of McAuliffe a day before the election.