When President Joe Biden joined former Virginia governor-turned-gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe at an Arlington rally Tuesday night, his script was so obviously designed to get a rise out of his twice-impeached uniquely unpopular Oval Office predecessor that it seemed unlikely to work.
If GOP nominee Glenn Youngkin is willing to pledge loyalty to Donald Trump in private, “Why not in public," Biden wondered. "Is there a problem with Trump being here? Is he embarrassed?"
But Trump—whose picture appears directly opposite the word “insecure” in the dictionary—but on Wednesday afternoon, teasing the idea of traveling to the state in a one-line statement. "Thank you, Arlington, see you soon!" Trump wrote.
“Wait, what?!” wondered Youngkin aides. After doing triple backflips to woo Trump's fringe following without alienating moderate swing voters, the Youngkin campaign hit the panic button.
Politico writes that Youngkin aides were "caught off guard" by the statement. "Trump confidants, meanwhile, were initially coy about whether he was being serious, with staff noting his penchant for mischief-making and trolling by tweet."
Shortly after Trump's statement, Trump spokesperson Taylor Budowich took a pre-election victory lap. "Donald J. Trump and his MAGA movement will be delivering a major victory to Trump-endorsed businessman @GlennYoungkin," he wrote. Details of a Trump visit to Virginia, Budowich added, "will be released when appropriate."
Not helping. But several hair-on-fire hours later, the Youngkin camp managed to clarify that Trump wasn't actually planning on showing up in the state. Or at least not immediately. Chicken.
Youngkin, of course, has based his entire strategy on publicly signaling and privately telling Trumpers and other right-wing voters that he's with them and, once he's elected, "We can start going on offense."
Trump may have backed down from physically showing up in the state, but even so, the Youngkin campaign just spent 24 precious hours beating back a rumor that terrified them, followed by a news cycle of stories linking Youngkin to Trump.
"Trump hints at potential Arlington visit for Virginia gubernatorial candidate Glenn Youngkin," read a Washington Post headline.
AP: "Biden ties Republican in race for Va. governor to Trump" (or
Politico: "Trump suggests he might drop a bomb on the Va. gov race. Then leaves."
The lede in the story carried by the Richmond Times-Dispatch, the state’s paper of record, read, “President Joe Biden is still targeting Glenn Youngkin as an ‘acolyte’ of former President Donald Trump.”
Mission accomplished for Democrats.
Republished with permission from Daily Kos.