Trump called Youngkin a “fantastic guy” in his six-minute address to the invitation-only tele-rally, which was not open to the general public or the media — a nod to the risks the former president’s involvement poses in a state he lost last year by 10 points.
Trump warned that without a Republican win, Democrats would destroy the suburbs, claiming without evidence that they would “ban” single-family home zoning, according to audio of the rally obtained by The Washington Post. Zoning, a function of local government, has not been an issue in the governor’s race and Youngkin’s Democratic opponent, Terry McAuliffe, has not proposed such a ban.
“If you vote to keep the radical Democrat machine in power, they’ll totally ruin that very special place where you live and they’ll wreck the schools,” Trump said. “They’ll crush your property values, and they’ll be in a position where you’re going to be totally powerless to stop them in the future.”
In a statement emailed to supporters earlier in the day and subsequently posted on Twitter by Trump’s spokesman, the former president appeared to be responding to ads funded by the Lincoln Project, a Republican anti-Trump group, that suggested Youngkin was “ashamed of Trump.”
“I say to all of our millions of followers, don’t listen to the Fake News and misleading advertisements,” Trump wrote. “… Get out and vote for a man who will be a great governor, Glenn Youngkin!”
Later in the afternoon, Trump released a statement that said, “Everything is on the line in this election, and every MAGA voter should strongly support Glenn Youngkin.”
Youngkin has been careful to avoid explicit association with Trump in the race against Democratic former governor Terry McAuliffe as he aims to win over suburban and independent voters . At the same time, Youngkin has pursued the conservative base by campaigning on culture-war issues that often animate Trump supporters, including opposition to critical race theory, an academic framework for studying race that is not part of Virginia’s K-12 curriculum.
The neck-and-neck race between Youngkin and McAuliffe has gained national interest as a bellwether for the 2022 congressional midterms and an indication of how Democrats will perform in a post-Trump era, as they compete to hold on to all three statewide seats and their 55-to-45 majority in the state House. The Democratic National Committee has invested nearly $6 million in cash and direct contributions in this year’s cycle, the DNC’s largest investment in the commonwealth in history, according to a DNC spokesperson.
Trump, who endorsed Youngkin after he won the Republican nomination in May, hasn’t been as eager to let Youngkin distance himself.
In September, Trump said Youngkin risked losing the race by not fully embracing the Make America Great Again movement. In his Monday morning statement, he said the effort to separate the two was designed so that his “great and unprecedented Make America Great Again base will not show up to vote.”
In another attempt to inject himself into the race, the former president teased the idea of coming to Virginia to campaign on behalf of Youngkin last week.
On Saturday, when asked about the tele-rally by reporters, Youngkin said he would not be engaged in the event as he would be traveling around the state for final campaign stops.
McAuliffe, who has tried to tie Youngkin to Trump as a key strategy in the race, denounced the tele-rally during his own closing rally in Northern Virginia on Monday evening. McAuliffe recalled Youngkin’s comment early in his campaign, that Trump “represents so much of why I’m running.”
“Think about that: After Trump praised neo-Nazis who attacked Charlottesville as” ‘very fine people,’ ” McAuliffe told the crowd. “After Trump incited a deadly attack on the US Capitol on January 6th. After all the racism and the hate and the lies. After all that, Glenn Youngkin says Donald Trump represents why he is running for governor.”
Two weeks ago, Trump called into a Richmond-area rally headlined by his former chief strategist Stephen K. Bannon. Youngkin did not attend the rally, which was hosted by John Fredericks, a talk radio host and Trump’s former Virginia chairman, saying he had a conflict. He initially thanked Fredericks for planning the rally but later said it was “weird and wrong” for participants to have pledged allegiance to an American flag that was said to have flown in Washington ahead of the Jan. 6 insurrection.
Along with encouraging votes for Youngkin, both of Trump’s statements on Monday laid the groundwork for unfounded claims of election fraud in the race. In one statement, Trump said that he was “not a believer in the integrity of Virginia’s elections,” and in the other that the Republican ticket must win by a margin larger than the “margin of fraud.”
Youngkin repeatedly has said that he does not believe there was election interference in 2020 in Virginia or that there would be in this year’s race, but he also spent the early days of the race building his campaign on “election integrity” issues.
No evidence of fraud in the 2020 election has been found in Virginia.
Michael Scherer contributed to this report.