EXCLUSIVE – Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin is donning the red vest once again, in the final stretch on the campaign trail ahead of Tuesday’s crucial legislative elections in Virginia, a closely watched 2024 bellwether.
Youngkin wore a similar red vest two years ago, as the first-time candidate who hailed from the party’s business wing edged out former Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe to become the first GOP candidate in a dozen years to win a gubernatorial election in the one-time swing state that had trended towards the Democrats the previous decade.
His win energized Republicans and instantly made Youngkin a rising star in the GOP that some pundits viewed as a possible 2024 White House contender.
Now he’s putting the vest on again, as he aims to hold the GOP’s narrow majority in the state House and recapture control of the state Senate, where Democrats currently hold a fragile majority.
“We’ve got work to do. And the work to do right now is to hold the House and flip the Senate. Hold the House and flip the Senate,” Youngkin stressed as he headlined a rally in Norfolk, Virginia on Thursday in support of two Republican legislative candidates.
Youngkin’s on a mission to encourage Republicans to turn out in big numbers in the state’s final days of early voting ahead of Election Day.
“When Republicans vote, Republicans win. When we turn out, we win,” Youngkin stressed, as he spoke to a crowd of veterans at VFW Post 4809 in Norfolk. “We’ve got to get the vote out.”
Youngkin’s mission is shared by the Republican National Committee, which earlier this year launched a national “Bank Your Vote” campaign to encourage GOP voters to take part in early in-person voting and absentee balloting.
It’s a tall task, in the wake of three years of former President Donald Trump’s disparaging comments about early and absentee voting, as part of his unproven claims that his 2020 election loss was due to massive voter fraud.
“There’s a lot of people who’ve voted early. And across the state, we’ve seen an uptick in early voting and absentee ballot and particularly in our battleground districts, we’ve seen a really good movement,” Youngkin highlighted in a national exclusive interview with Fox News following his second rally of the day, at the historic Yorktown Freight Shed.
Youngkin emphasized that “we get these folks off the sidelines, and we win. I’ve been really pleased with the turnout so far, people are voting and that’s the most important thing.”
Total Republican control of the state government in Richmond would allow Youngkin to push through a conservative agenda.
Part of that agenda includes a proposed 15-week abortion ban, with exceptions for rape, incest and the life of the mother.
The blockbuster move last year by the Supreme Court’s conservative majority to overturn the landmark nearly half-century-old Roe v. Wade ruling, which had allowed for legalized abortions nationwide, moved the divisive issue back to the states.
And it’s forced Republicans to play plenty of defense in elections across the country, as a party that’s nearly entirely “pro-life” has had to deal with an electorate where a majority of Americans support at least some form of abortion access.
National and state Democrats have made abortion a crucial centerpiece of their push to get out the vote in Virginia.
While some Republicans have shied away from focusing on abortion, Youngkin’s leaning into the issue, telling Fox News that “I just wanted us to be very clear about what we were going to do.”
“The other side is really good about spreading non truths. And of course what they want to do is make abortion available all the way up through and including birth, paid for with taxpayer money,” Youngkin claimed.
The governor charged that the Democrats’ position is “way too extreme for Virginians.”
“I’ve been really clear, there is not a ban. We’d support a bill to protect life at 15 weeks when a baby feels pain, with exceptions for rape and incest when the mother’s life is at risk. And this is reasonable limits,” he argued. “I think with abortion, we have found a place we can come together. I think voters will support it.”
Democrats want to keep in place the state’s current restrictions, which allow legalized abortions through the second trimester. And they note that Virginia’s the only southern state that doesn’t ban abortions.
While three states – Kentucky, Louisiana, and Mississippi – are holding off-year gubernatorial elections, the marquee ballot box showdown this November appears to be Virginia’s legislative contests.
And both major party’s have raised and spent big bucks on the Commonwealth’s elections.
Youngkin, mostly through his Spirit of Virginia PAC, has hauled in a record $22.5 million, with much of the funds paying for mailers, digital spots, and TV ads to encourage Republicans to head to the polls.
“I’m asking for your vote. Elect a Republican team to back me up and I promise, we’ll deliver,” Youngkin pledges in his closing TV commercial ahead of Election Day.
Democrats have also infused millions into Virginia’s elections, with the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee pushing turnout through grassroots outreach, direct mail, robocalls, and digital and TV ads.
“Democrats in the Virginia legislature are the last line of defense to protect Virginian’s fundamental freedoms like access to an abortion,” DLCC communications director Abhi Rahman told Fox News .”We need all hands on deck now. If we vote, we will win.”
And former President Barack Obama is putting his star power to use in urging Democrats to head to the polls.
A pair of robocalls recorded by Obama are being sent to over 100,000 households in roughly 20 key legislative districts in Virginia through Tuesday’s election.
Youngkin’ embraces the national attention on his state’s legislative showdowns.
“I believe it should be a bellwether because Virginia leads,” he stressed. “I think we can lead and demonstrate that in a state that was lost, a state that was totally controlled by Democrats, we can in 24 short months come together, Republicans, independents, and yes, some Democrats and choose common sense conservative leadership and policies that work…I think other states should take notice.”
While the governor says he remains laser focused on next week’s elections in Virginia as he avoids 2024 talk, there’s no let up in presidential race speculation surrounding Youngkin.
A number of top conservative donors who don’t support Trump — the current commanding front-runner in the GOP nomination race — this autumn have quietly increased their efforts to persuade Youngkin to run for the White House.
Many of those top dollar contributors met with Youngkin at a donor summit in Virginia Beach two weeks ago.
Among those contributing to the Spirit of Virginia PAC is GOP mega-donor Thomas Peterffy, who donated $3 million. Peterffy said in a new interview with Forbes that Youngkin may reconsider a White House run if the GOP takes total control of Virginia’s government in next week’s elections.
When asked about those comments, Youngkin would only say “I’m humbled by the fact that people are paying attention to what we’re doing in Virginia and supportive of what we’re doing.”
“I’m glad the nation is watching, but we’ve got work to do here. Over the next five days. This is what we’re focused on is holding our house and flipping our Senate,” he added.
But former Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell of Virginia, who joined the governor on the trail on Thursday, told Fox News “there’s a window, a very short, slim, window. But if there’s somebody who can do it, it’s Glenn Youngkin.”
Scroll down to leave a comment: