Sunday, May 16, 2021


In this year's Virginia governor's race, the Republican nominee had to beat a couple of Trumpier challengers at the party's virtual convention. Now that that's accomplished, and he's running in a state where Donald Trump lost by 10 points last year, he can risk speaking the truth.
Before securing the GOP nomination for Virginia governor, Glenn Youngkin sidestepped questions about whether President Biden had legitimately won the White House....

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.
And in New York, where Trump lost by 23 points, the likely Republican candidate in next year's governor's race is making the same move (although he didn't wait to secure the nomination first):
Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY) is "repositioning" his stance on Donald Trump's "Big Lie" about election fraud as he runs statewide for governor of New York in 2022....

Following the [January 6] insurrection, Zeldin took to the floor of the House and sided with the insurrectionists....

Zeldin then voted to overturn the election results.

The GOP congressman toned down his rhetoric, in an interview with Newsday....

So that's the GOP plan, at least in blue states: Claim loyalty to Trump while reluctantly acknowledging that Biden won the election. Shake the Etch A Sketch and hope that Democratic efforts to point out the obvious shameless hypocrisy fall flat.

Has Trump himself suddenly become pragmatic? Has he made a conscious choice to continue backing Glenn Youngkin (and not attack Lee Zeldin) despite this apostasy on the election? Or do GOP strategists assume Trump won't notice the heresy?

Oddly, in the Virginia race, both parties are engaging in forms of Trump-bashing. From the Democrats, it's what you'd expect:
The Democratic Governors Association ... launched an online ad tying Youngkin to Trump and the “big lie” that Biden stole the White House. The Democratic Party of Virginia kicked off a “Where Trump Leads, Glenn Follows” rally on Richmond’s Capitol Square, with plans to take it around the state.
But Republicans attacked the likely Democratic nominee by trying to link him to Trump:
The Republican Governors Association blasted out a Fox News story that Trump, once a reliable Democratic donor, donated $25,000 to McAuliffe’s failed 2009 bid for governor. Years earlier, Fox noted, McAuliffe played golf with Trump, and as governor, he pledged to work with the newly inaugurated president at the National Governors Association dinner in February 2017, where Trump called him a “friend.”

... But Trump himself seemed to undercut the notion that he and McAuliffe are friends by bashing the Democrat in his endorsement of Youngkin.
This doubletalk might work if the mainstream media treats Youngkin and Zeldin as within-the-pale right-centrists while the right-wing media treats them as loyal Trumpists. (It's less likely to work in Zeldin's case, because he's in a bluer state, and because he's in Congress -- unlike Youngkin, who's a businessman -- and thus has a longer record of loyalty to Trump.)

Democrats will continue linking both men to Trump. But shouldn't they also try to attack the candidates from the right? Targeted online ads accusing Youngkin and Zeldin of being RINO swamp creatures who acknowledge the legitimacy of Biden's victory would dampen GOP turnout. Surely it's possible to direct these ads only to the Trumpiest people, maybe a few weeks before voting starts. Democrats shouldn't let the GOP get away with this two-step.

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