Former President Donald Trump sought to tether himself to Republican candidate Glenn Youngkin on the eve of Virginia's highly anticipated gubernatorial election, encouraging his supporters to show up to vote in what polls predict will be a tight race.
"The Fake News media, together with some of the perverts doing ads ad nauseam on primarily Fox (Fox shouldn’t take those ads!), are trying to create an impression that Glenn Youngkin and I are at odds and don't like each other," Trump said in a statement Monday.
"Importantly, this is not true, we get along very well together and strongly believe in many of the same policies. Especially when it comes to the important subject of education," he continued.
Youngkin's closeness to the former president has been a frequent talking point throughout the Virginia governor's race, with former Gov. Terry McAuliffe — the Democratic candidate — seizing on his Republican rival's comment in May that Trump "represents so much of why I'm running."
But McAuliffe's references to Trump have become so constant that the Youngkin campaign crafted a tongue-in-cheek web ad with a supercut of all the times the Democratic candidate has mentioned the former president's name. The minutelong spot closes with McAuliffe implausibly declaring, "in the end, this is not about Donald Trump."
Still, McAuliffe rushed to respond to Trump's statement Monday, declaring that "Glenn Youngkin's campaign will close today just like it started: with Donald Trump."
"Since launching his campaign, Glenn Youngkin has made it clear he is running for governor for one person and one person only: Donald Trump," McAuliffe said in a news release. "Now, with less than 24 hours until Election Day, Trump is helping Glenn close his campaign and rewarding his total allegiance for the last eight months."
McAuliffe's high-profile Democratic surrogates, too, have criticized Youngkin's support for Trump and accused him of embracing a more extreme version of conservatism than the type he promotes to Virginia voters at large.
"Extremism can come in many forms. It can come in the rage of a mob driven to assault the Capitol. It can come in a smile and a fleece vest," President Joe Biden said at a McAuliffe rally last week, a reference to Youngkin's preferred wardrobe on the campaign trail.
As the race has intensified in recent weeks, Youngkin has largely avoided invoking Trump at official events, instead aiming to cultivate a more moderate image to appeal to Virginia's swing-voting suburbs.
Youngkin distanced himself from a Republican rally in Virginia last month where Trump spoke via telephone and supporters delivered the Pledge of Allegiance to a U.S. flag that organizers said was flown at the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection.
On Monday, Trump argued that "[t]he Fake News and perverts are working over time is to try and convince people that we do not like each other, and therefore, my great and unprecedented Make America Great Again base will not show up to vote."
Since leaving office, the former president has maintained an almost single-minded focus on perpetuating his false claims that the 2020 election was stolen, and he repeated in his statement Monday that he considered Virginia's voting system to be compromised.
"I am not a believer in the integrity of Virginia’s elections, lots of bad things went on, and are going on," Trump said. But he added that "[t]he way you beat it is to flood the system and get out and vote."
Trump went on to describe Youngkin, a former executive with The Carlyle Group investment firm, as "a good man, a hardworking man, a successful man" who "loves Virginia and wants to cut your taxes, save your children’s education, and many other very good things."
Just as McAuliffe has emphasized Youngkin's ties to Trump, the Republican candidate has targeted his Democratic rival on issues including children's education and critical race theory.
Specifically, Youngkin has trumpeted McAuliffe's remarks at a September debate, when the former governor said: "I don't think parents should be telling schools what they should teach."
According to the RealClearPolitics polling average of recent Virginia surveys, Youngkin is 1.6 percentage points ahead of McAuliffe a day before the election.
Marc Caputo contributed to this report.
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