Virginia Republican gubernatorial nominee Glenn Youngkin got a nice gift to kick off the week: a public statement from state Sen. Amanda F. Chase (R-Chesterfield) that she would back him in the general election and not mount an independent bid for the executive mansion.

Or at least Chase is “planning” to support Youngkin “at this point.”

Given recent GOP gubernatorial history, that’s a keeper.

Because, yes, things could easily have been much worse. In the long string of statewide Republican defeats since 2009, intramural spats, hurt feelings and bruised egos have played important supporting roles.

In 2017, GOP gubernatorial nominee Ed Gillespie endured months of will-he-or-won’t-he endorsement discussions with the candidate he narrowly defeated in the primary, former Prince William Board of County Supervisors chairman Corey A. Stewart.

The best the one-time Trump state campaign co-chair could muster was a vague promise to support the statewide ticket. When now-Gov. Ralph Northam (D) defeated Gillespie by nine percentage points, Stewart lashed out at Gillespie and the “Bush wing” of the party for a “humiliating” defeat (Stewart and his populist wing would lose the 2018 U.S. Senate race to incumbent Democrat Tim Kaine by 16 percentage points).

And Chase’s lukewarm backing is orders of magnitude better than what Bill Bolling offered Ken Cuccinelli II in 2013. Back then, the former lieutenant governor’s public petulance after Cuccinelli outmaneuvered him for the 2013 GOP gubernatorial nod was a case study in Republicans undermining one another on the state’s biggest political stage.

Bolling toyed with an independent candidacy, and, when the groundswell for that possibility utterly failed to materialize, he sat out the race and refused to endorse anyone.

Bolling’s actions still rankle many in the GOP. But it was hardly the first time a Republican elected official broke ranks and left a trail of flaming bridges behind.

Former state senator Russ Potts ran as an “independent Republican” in the 2005 gubernatorial contest, earning fawning reviews from editorial boards but few actual votes an Election Day.

What prompted Chase to break the pattern — at least for now?

Chase offered some insight in an interview with WRVA’s John Reid Tuesday morning. Chase led with a few digs at her bête noire, Pete Snyder, restated her backing of ex-president Donald Trump, underlined her concerns about a favorite Trumpian dog whistle — election integrity — and continued to push the narrative that she was the gubernatorial front-runner whom the other, Trumpish wannabes tried so hard to copy.

Not much of a gift to Youngkin, unless snappy copy hooks for Democratic mailers and TV ads is considered a gift.

But Chase later congratulated Youngkin for overcoming what she insists was a convention process rigged to choose either Snyder or former House speaker Kirk Cox (Colonial Heights).

Chase praised Youngkin for spending the money necessary to get new, nonparty regulars to sign up as delegates — effectively overwhelming the allegedly rigged process.

Well, okay, we’re still digging for that gift. Where is it?

Here: Chase said, “I’m not running as an independent, so let me just put that to rest.”

“I’ve had several conversations with Glenn to congratulate him on his win,” Chase said, and she “wishes Glenn the very best.”

And: “I cannot personally stand another four more years, and I know no one else can either, of having my personal liberties taken from me, which the Democrats have done.”

“We have to pull together this November to make sure that we win," Chase said. "And we have to win.”

That’s Youngkin’s gift: Chase’s clear, cold, honest and public realization that going down the Potts-Bolling-Stewart path would benefit only the eventual Democratic gubernatorial nominee.

Chase’s backing is no guarantee of a GOP victory. Far from it. Instead, her support is a small but important step in the GOP’s long recovery process.

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