This column has been updated.
Youngkin’s ruse was short-lived. The Virginia Mercury reports: “The Republican nominee for governor in Virginia has been something of a chameleon so far, hard to characterize, often evasive on positions.” That said, “Virginians are discovering more about Youngkin,” despite his paucity of policy proposals.
His most notable policy plank to date is a voting-restriction measure in the mode of other Jim Crow-style laws that Republicans are pushing based on the “big lie” that voting fraud lifted Biden into office. He has also let on that he is hard-liner on abortion, a position at odds with the commonwealth’s increasingly blue voters. In a video released last week, Youngkin essentially admitted he had to hide his true views to get elected. “When I’m governor and I have a majority in the House we can start going on offense,” Youngkin said. “But as a campaign topic, sadly, that in fact won’t win my independent votes that I have to get.”
Now, he is refusing to debate Democratic nominee and former governor Terry McAuliffe, with the bogus excuse that PBS host Judy Woodruff — who has moderated multiple presidential debates — is biased. If “bias” means “likely to ask uncomfortable questions that will expose his true views,” he may have a point.
As McAuliffe said in a statement: “Glenn Youngkin has spent his campaign embracing Donald Trump and trying to hide his true views from Virginia voters, so it’s no surprise he does not have the courage to face me at this debate and answer questions just as every Republican and Democratic nominee for governor has done since 1985. His refusal to participate in this debate is an insult to Virginians and shows that Glenn knows just how out of step he is with the people of the Commonwealth.”
A desperate Youngkin has now resorted to claiming that Virginia’s economy is in peril. A small problem: For the second time in a row, CNBC this year rated Virginia as the best state in the country to do business. (The network skipped rankings last year because of the pandemic, but Virginia received the same ranking in 2019.) Moreover, he has not revealed what exactly he is going to do to make the economy even better.
Unsurprisingly, McAuliffe touted these results under a Democratic government in a statement to CNBC:
My Trump-endorsed opponent Glenn Youngkin’s right-wing agenda would put all of that progress at risk. His focus on divisive social crusades, Trumpian conspiracy theories, and threats to defund our schools would jeopardize our economic progress and take our Commonwealth back. That’s not a recipe for a “rip-roaring economy,” it’s a roadmap to economic chaos and watching businesses flee our state.
What’s more, The Post reports: “McAuliffe has released an 11-page plan calling for a host of steps to improve worker training, require paid sick leave and make child care more affordable [while] Youngkin has yet to disclose any formal economic plan.” Youngkin has, however, suggested that he would eliminate the state income tax, which would bankrupt the commonwealth and require massive cuts in spending for schools, public safety, transportation and health care. (He also virulently opposes expanding Medicaid.)
Youngkin did not help his cause by hiring ex-Trump adviser Stephen Moore, who has championed tax cuts for the rich and zapping measures to combat climate change. As New York Magazine’s Jonathan Chait pointed out about Moore:
He has managed to misunderstand an impressive array of subjects. Moore claims global warming is fake; that coal would mount a massive comeback under Trump (the opposite occurred); that the insurance exchanges created by Obamacare were collapsing (they didn’t); that Robert E. Lee “hated slavery” and the “Civil War was about the South having its own rights” (uh, no).
Youngkin’s biggest problem, however, may be the disgraced former president, who has embraced him with a fervor reserved for true-believers in the MAGA cult. The former president boosted Youngkin recently in his infamously incoherent and fact-free style: “Virginia has so much potential but has been badly hurt by awful economic policy, terrible crime, and the worst education system promoting Critical Race Theory, etc.”
In fact, USA Today reported in 2020 that Virginia was “the only state outside of the New England to rank among the five safest in the country.” CRT is taught in no Virginia public school. Its unemployment rate in May was 4.5 percent, considerably lower than the national average of 5.8 percent.
With arguments like that and a philosophy so at odds with the voters, it is no wonder Youngkin wants to skip debates. The biggest problem McAuliffe is likely to encounter is overconfidence.