Lower than a yr after winning office by presenting himself as by no means like Donald Trump, Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin is now endorsing a girl who insists the 2020 election was stolen from the previous president and who has compared herself and other Trump supporters to Jesus.
Youngkin is to spend a day next month campaigning with Kari Lake, the GOP nominee for governor in Arizona and one of the crucial prolific spreaders of Trump’s election lies within the Republican world outside of Trump himself.
Republicans who left the party due to Trump’s misdeeds, culminating in his coup attempt on Jan. 6, 2021, said Youngkin’s willingness to support election liars like Lake is revealing.
“He didn’t run as a ‘normal’ Republican. He ran as an enabler of the crazies. In today’s GOP, there are crazies and there are enablers of the crazies,” said Joe Walsh, a former GOP congressman from Illinois. “His helping Kari Lake, a crazy, get elected, isn’t a surprise and reinforces his status as an enabler.”
David Jolly, a former GOP congressman from Florida, said Youngkin ― who’s unable to run for reelection due to Virginia’s single-term limit ― is now attempting to appeal to the median Republican voter nationally, which suggests countenancing Trump’s stolen election claims.
“I feel slightly duped myself in how I saw his candidacy,” Jolly said. “It could be we put an excessive amount of stock in Youngkin the candidate as an alternative of realizing his race was likely just an exercise in matching a message with where the constituency was for the Virginia general election.”
Youngkin’s political operation declined to comment on his decision to support Lake, or on the previous television newscaster’s various statements during her campaign.
Last week, when Youngkin visited Reno, Nevada, in support of the GOP nominee for governor there, HuffPost asked him how he’d reply to fellow Republicans, like Lake, who proceed to insist the 2020 election was stolen.
“We’ve got to look forward. That’s what now we have to do as Republicans,” Youngkin said, using the euphemism some Republicans have adopted to suggest the party should stop dwelling on Trump’s false claims. “The truth in fact is that now we have to work to make people feel more confident in regards to the election process.”
Lake, though, isn’t more likely to stop repeating Trump’s lie that the election was rigged and stolen when it comes time for Youngkin’s Oct. 19 visit.
“The Kari Lake you had in the first is the Kari Lake you get in the overall,” one Lake aide said on condition of anonymity, adding that Youngkin’s staff had not made any requests that Lake not repeat the stolen election lie during their day together.
Lake won Trump’s support early on together with her visits to his Mar-a-Lago social club in Florida and her enthusiastic embrace of his repeatedly debunked claims of massive fraud within the 2020 election. More recently, during a campaign visit at a church, she repeated his 2015 claim that immigrants coming across the U.S.-Mexico border are criminals.
“They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists, and that’s who’s coming across our border,” she said.
In that very same appearance, she said she didn’t mind if President Joe Biden criticized her and Trump followers who support the mob that assaulted the Capitol on Jan. 6 because Jesus Christ was also criticized.
“You’ll be able to call us extremists. You’ll be able to call us domestic terrorists. who else was called a number of names his whole life? Jesus,” she said.
Youngkin, who took office in January, narrowly defeated Democratic former Gov. Terry McAuliffe in a race that turned on Youngkin’s ability to spur high turnout amongst Trump supporters in rural Virginia counties while trimming his losses within the state’s northern suburbs, where Trump is essentially loathed.
He did so by emphasizing education, crime and inflation while largely ignoring Trump’s election lies. His ability to win a state that Biden carried by double digits in 2020 immediately made him a possible contender within the eyes of major GOP donors.
Youngkin’s failure now to chart a course away from Trumpism is disappointing, one senior Republican strategist said.
“It’s expected that Donald Trump and [Florida Gov.] Ron DeSantis would campaign for Kari Lake. It’s very frustrating to see Glenn Youngkin solid his lot with them versus standing with the sane and rational Republicans who recognize that our party won’t ever move forward if we embrace election deniers and condone their dangerous lies,” the consultant said on condition of anonymity. “While he may even see political upside to appealing to the QAnon crowd as he grows his national brand, he’s doing everlasting damage to any probability of being seen as a responsible leader with respected principles.”
To Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics, Youngkin’s decision to campaign with Kari Lake, somewhat than denouncing her, is beyond disappointing and more an abdication.
“Youngkin has already campaigned for a rogue’s gallery of election deniers ― I prefer the term ‘election liars.’ Tudor Dixon in Michigan, Paul LePage in Maine, Joe Lombardo in Nevada, and others,” Sabato said. “So Kari Lake suits right in, but she stands out as the most extreme of the lot.”