“I would like to thank my BASE for coming out in force and voting for Glenn Youngkin,” said Trump in a statement issued via his Save America PAC. “Without you, he would not have been close to winning.”
He was back at it during an appearance with Virginia-based conservative radio show host John Fredericks. “I’ve heard Virginia is blue, but I’ve never believed it was blue,” said Trump. “Without MAGA, [Youngkin] would have lost by 15 points, more … instead of giving us credit, they say, ‘Oh he’s more popular than [Trump].’ “
This is vintage Trump — always quick to claim credit when things go well and loathe to take any blame when things go poorly.
It’s also fundamentally wrong. Youngkin won the race in spite of Trump, not because of Trump.
Yes, Youngkin accepted Trump’s endorsement in the race. And, no, Youngkin didn’t actively distance himself from the former President when asked.
But, make no mistake: Youngkin did everything he could to make the final weeks and months of this race about himself and former Gov. Terry McAuliffe, not Trump.
“He’s not coming,” Youngkin told reporters late in the race when asked about the possibility of a Trump rally before Election Day. “In fact, we’re campaigning as Virginians in Virginia with Virginians.” Pressed on why he wasn’t inviting Trump on the campaign trail, Youngkin was blunt: “Because this is about Virginia.”
While Trump still managed to be a presence in the race — he called in to several tele-townhall type of events aimed at rallying his most ardent supporters — it was quite clear that Youngkin was trying to keep him as far away as he could while still keeping the Trump base in the fold.
Contrast Trump’s lack of physical presence in the state with the who’s who of the Democratic establishment who campaigned for McAulliffe down the stretch — from President Joe Biden to Vice President Kamala Harris to former President Barack Obama.
Democrats wanted to nationalize this race. Republicans didn’t. Youngkin talked about the Loudoun County school system more than he talked about immigration or the national economy or, most certainly, Trump.
That’s not to say Trump doesn’t deserve any credit for Youngkin’s win. The Republican’s margins in the more rural parts of the state were undoubtedly buoyed by Trump’s praise of him.
But, Youngkin spent the entirety of the general election trying to make the race anything but a referendum on Trump — a smart move given that just 42% of Virginia voters had a favorable opinion of the former president while 54% viewed him unfavorably.
Youngkin won by keeping Trump out of his state and at arm’s length in the general election. Trump can claim all the credit he wants for Youngkin’s win but that’s the political reality.