Republican candidate Glenn Youngkin thus far has masterfully threaded the needle, saying enough to keep the GOP Trumpers happy while reaching out to anti-Trump Republicans and independents who are positioned to decide next month's Virginia gubernatorial election. While Youngkin still trails former Governor Terry McAuliffe in most polls, he is well within striking distance. It will all come down to who shows up to vote. Youngkin needs a favorable turnout dynamic, i.e., motivated Republicans casting ballots while unmotivated Democrats stay home.
Former President Donald Trump may well be on his way to blowing up that hopeful scenario. On Wednesday, Trump sent an email to his supporters telling them the most important thing they can do is NOT vote in 2022 and 2024...unless the "Presidential Election Fraud of 2020" is "solved." That no doubt includes the few elections held in 2021, including the contests in Virginia.
Of course, there is no evidence of election fraud tipping the 2020 election and, even if there was, Trump is not ever going to be "reinstated" to his former position because of it. So Trump's instruction is actually without limit. He does not want Republicans to vote in the next few elections, including ironically the presidential contest of 2024 in which he says he will be a candidate.
Youngkin can only hope that GOP voters forget Trump's directive to not vote. But for Youngkin, it is likely to get worse. The spotlight on the Virginia governor's race is only going to get brighter as the November 2nd election draws near. It is not in Trump's nature to pass up an opportunity to stand in the spotlight, to be the center of attention. It is very possible that Trump will decide to hold a rally in Virginia prior to Election Day. That would put Youngkin in an impossible situation. Does he attend and draw even more attention to Trump's support of him in a state where Trump is very unpopular? Or does he decide to skip the event and possibly tick off Trump and his supporters, the GOP base vote he desperately needs?
It is not just his association with Trump that Youngkin is trying to downplay. Youngkin wants Trump to stay out of Virginia because the former President holding a rally in the state would stoke Democratic turnout. Presently, McAuliffe is struggling to motivate his Democratic-leaning voters. Youngkin wants to keep it that way.
Yesterday, Fox News released a poll showing McAuliffe leading the race 52-41 among registered voters, but just 51-46 when the pollster screened for "likely voters." That is a pretty big enthusiasm gap.
A week ago, I would have predicted a Youngkin victory. I now believe Younkin may have hit his high water mark last week and that McAuliffe is now righting the ship. McAuliffe may well end up getting assistance from Trump in winning the race.
Nonetheless, expect after the election that Trump will announce Younkin lost because he didn't embrace Trump enough.
OOP's short takes:
- Indianapolis media personality Abdul Hakim-Shabazz tells an interesting story about his being banned from a news conference by Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita because he was not "credentialed" media.
- In the past I have been critical of Abdul for blurring the lines between reporting on the news and commenting on it. Unfortunately, that is a trend with too many reporters (see CNN's Jim Acosta for an example). But on this issue, Abdul seems to be 100% correct. Did Rokita ask that all reporters be screened for "credentials?" Or was Abdul singled out? It does sound like Abdul had been issued a press badge so it is not clear what "credentials" he was supposedly lacking.
- Nonetheless, it is not clear why "credentials" would have been needed. Since when does a public official holding a news conference exclude the public from attending? Maybe if it was a popular subject and there wasn't room for all who wanted to attend. I don't believe, however, Rokita's press conference on robocalls was such a popular event that such restrictions on who attended would have been needed.