RICHMOND — Before securing the GOP nomination for Virginia governor, Glenn Youngkin sidestepped questions about whether President Biden had legitimately won the White House — something followers of former president Donald Trump doubt.

Youngkin would say only that Biden is the president, had been sworn in and was living in the White House. Meanwhile, the former Carlyle Group executive played into Trump's baseless claims of widespread election fraud by making "election integrity" the centerpiece of his campaign.

But days after winning both the nomination and Trump’s endorsement, Youngkin appeared to change his rhetoric, saying in an interview on Fox Business: “I have said before that Joe Biden was legitimately elected our president. I mean, he took the oath. He’s sleeping in the White House. He’s unfortunately signing executive order after executive order.”

Yet it appears he never said that so explicitly or publicly, at least not before winning the nomination. Youngkin’s campaign declined to comment, but pointed to one other interview in which he seemed to agree, with a simple “yeah,” that Biden had been legitimately elected. That interview was conducted after he’d won the GOP nod in results announced Monday night.

On Wednesday, a WAVY-TV reporter asked: “Do you think President Biden’s win was legitimate?”

Youngkin’s response: “Yeah. He’s our president. I mean, he slept in the White House last night. Joe Biden’s our president, and we have to move forward.”

Youngkin’s “yeah” on WAVY and his more explicit comments on Fox Business appear to be the first times he’s publicly acknowledged Biden’s win.

Youngkin won a seven-way race for the nomination in which nearly every candidate embraced or played into Trump’s baseless claims of voter fraud. Among the top four contenders, only Del. Kirk Cox (Colonial Heights), a former House speaker, acknowledged before the May 8 Republican nominating convention that Biden had legitimately won the election. Cox came in a distant fourth.

Businessman Pete Snyder, who came in second, had declined to say if the presidential election had been stolen and, like Youngkin, also played up election security as a top issue.

State Sen. Amanda F. Chase (Chesterfield), the third-place finisher, was all in on the fraud allegations, leading “stop the steal” rallies in Richmond and protesting in Washington on Jan. 6, when Trump supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol to try to overturn the election results. Chase did not enter the Capitol but later praised those who did as “patriots.”

In a brief interview with The Washington Post at an appearance in Lynchburg in February, Youngkin was asked if his election-integrity push stemmed from a belief that Biden hadn’t rightfully won the election.

“No,” he said. “Where I’m coming from is the sad reality that we have a large group of Americans who actually don’t trust our election process. And that’s not a Republican issue or a Democrat issue. That’s a democracy issue.”

Pressed to say if he believed Biden had been legitimately elected, Youngkin sidestepped.

“I actually think he was inaugurated president and he is our president,” he said. “And that is the fact.”

Democrats have blasted Youngkin for his stance on the 2020 election.

“In Glenn Youngkin, the Virginia GOP has nominated a far-right extremist who has demonstrated total allegiance to Donald Trump. Throughout this campaign, Youngkin has advanced Trump’s dangerous election conspiracy theories,” said Susan Swecker, chairwoman of the Democratic Party of Virginia.

But former Republican governor George Allen said in an interview this week that he thought Youngkin had taken a smart approach during the nominating race.

“I think he’s handling it deftly, with the right touch and a good bank shot,” Allen said.

But Allen readily concedes the legitimacy of Biden’s win and thinks Republicans would be smart to move on from any narrative to the contrary.

“The reality is Biden won,” he said, “and Republicans should not be spending their time talking about that.”