Trump parachutes into crucial Virginia governor’s race on election eve

The Virginia Governor’s Race Gets Tight

Can Glenn Youngkin upset Terry McAuliffe?

Former President Trump is holding a virtual rally on Election Eve on behalf of Glenn Youngkin, the Republican nominee in Virginia’s closely watched showdown for governor, a statewide race with national implications.

Trump’s political team told Fox News on Monday that the get-out-the vote tele-rally would be held at 8 p.m. ET, with text messages and emails being sent out to supporters by the former president and his eldest son, Donald Trump Jr.

Officials with the former president’s Save America political organization told Fox News that Trump “continues to strongly support Glenn Youngkin and is encouraging his massive MAGA movement to get out and vote tomorrow. He is executing a plan that will maximize his impact ahead of Election Day by contacting as many voters as possible.”

Former President Donald Trump greets supporters during his Save America rally in Perry, Ga., on Saturday, Sept. 25, 2021. (AP Photo/Ben Gray)

But the GOP nominee, whom the latest polls indicate is deadlocked with former Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe on the eve of the election, isn’t taking part in Trump’s event.

Youngkin, who’s endorsed by Trump but has appeared to keep the former president at arm’s length during the general election campaign, told reporters on Saturday that he didn’t plan on participating.

“I haven’t been involved in that,” he said. “But the teams are talking, I’m sure.” 

Youngkin, a first-time candidate and former private equity CEO, is holding his own Election Eve rally at 8:30 p.m. in Leesburg in voter-rich Northern Virginia.

Trump remains very popular with Republican base voters in Virginia and across the country, and extremely influential with GOP politicians as he continues to play a kingmaker’s role in the party. He has also repeatedly teased another presidential run in 2024. Trump’s endorsement of Youngkin in the spring helped the candidate win Virginia’s heavily contested GOP nomination.

Trump, in a statement on Monday morning, pushed back against “an impression that Glenn Youngkin and I are at odds and don’t like each other…this is not true, we get along very well together and strongly believe in many of the same policies.”

“Glenn Youngkin is a good man, a hardworking man, a successful man. He loves Virginia and wants to cut your taxes, save your children’s education, and many other very good things,” Trump argued.

John Fredericks, a Virginia-based nationally syndicated conservative talk radio host and Trump’s Virginia campaign chairman in the 2016 and 2020 presidential elections, told Fox News that “the key to a Republican victory in Virginia rests clearly on the shoulders of Trump voters turning out on game day in massive numbers.”

Nearly all of the final surveys indicate that the race between McAuliffe, who is running for his old job, and Youngkin are deadlocked among likely voters – in a state where Republicans haven’t won an election for governor, lieutenant governor or attorney general in a dozen years. The polls also point to a enthusiasm gap among Democratic voters that benefits the GOP.

McAuliffe surprisingly told reporters this weekend that the election is “not about Trump,” but for months he has rarely missed an opportunity to tie Youngkin to Trump at campaign events, in ads, and in interviews.

Virginia Republican gubernatorial nominee Glenn Youngkin speaks during a campaign event in Old Town Alexandria’s Farmers Market in Alexandria, Virginia, U.S., October 30, 2021. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

The strategy’s simple: Opposition to Trump sparked heavy turnout by Democrats during his presidency, helping to fuel the blue wave that enabled the Democrats to convincingly win back the House of Representatives in the 2018 midterms and help propel now-President Biden to victory over Trump in last November’s election. The latest polls in the Virginia race indicate that Trump, who lost the state by 10 points to Biden in last year’s presidential election, remains very unpopular among Democrats and independent voters in the commonwealth.

While McAuliffe’s teamed up at rallies with Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris, former President Obama, and other top Democrats, Youngkin has eschewed stumping with Trump and other top GOP surrogates. As he kicked off his current statewide bus tour, Youngkin emphasized that he wouldn’t be campaigning with top surrogates and instead would feature “everyday Virginians.”

Trump last week flirted with parachuting into Virginia to hold a rally on behalf of Youngkin, saying in a statement on Thursday, “see you soon!” Taylor Budowich, communications director for Trump’s Save America political organization, tweeted that “President Trump looks forward to being back in Virginia! Details will be released when appropriate.”

“Hallelujah,” was McAuliffe’s initial reaction to reporters, minutes after Trump’s statement started going viral. 

Democratic gubernatorial candidate former Gov. Terry McAuliffe gestrures during a rally in Norfolk, Va., Friday, Oct. 29, 2021. McAuliffe will face Republican Glenn Youngkin in the November election. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)
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Neither Trump’s statement nor Budowich’s tweet specifically said whether a visit would come before or after Election Day on Tuesday, and sources close to the former president told Fox News hours later that Trump wouldn’t be visiting Virginia ahead of Tuesday’s election. 

“It is just killing Trump that he is not here, obviously,” McAuliffe argued. “I think Trump is trying to play whichever happens, Trump is always going to claim credit for himself no matter whatever happens. Trump is very unpopular in this state. Everyone knows that. That is probably why Youngkin doesn’t want him.”

The tease of the Trump in-person rally gave McAuliffe a quick fundraising burst.

Hours before the former president’s Election Eve tele-rally on behalf of Youngkin, McAuliffe’s campaign put out a statement saying, “It’s confirmed: on Monday, Donald Trump is showing up to support Glenn Youngkin. Youngkin’s entire campaign has been a full embrace of Donald Trump’s dangerous extremism: divisive culture wars, racist dog whistles and bigotry.

But there is little evidence yet that McAuilffe’s full-court press of linking Youngkin to the former president is paying dividends.

One of the freshest polls in the race, a Washington Post-Schar School survey, indicated that majority of likely voters – 53% – said Trump’s endorsement of Youngkin makes no difference to their vote, with 37% saying it makes them less likely to support the GOP nominee and 7% saying it makes them more likely to vote for Youngkin.

Tim Phillips, president of the powerful conservative and libertarian political advocacy group Americans for Prosperity (AFP) and a Northern Virginia resident, told Fox News, “I don’t think the former president has played much of a role” in the race.

Phillips, who’s been leading a team from AFP’s political wing in door-knocking get-out-the-vote efforts in support of Youngkin, argued that McAuliffe’s effort to tie the GOP nominee to Trump “just sounds tone deaf to a lot of Virginians I’m talking to.”

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