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Trump to headline call-in rally before Election Day for Virginia GOP ticket, former Trump state campaign chair says


RICHMOND, Va. - Donald Trump will headline an election-eve tele-rally Monday night for Virginia gubernatorial candidate Glenn Youngkin and other Republicans, according to a Trump ally leading a bus tour meant to whip up support for a ticket thats run hot and cold on the 45th president.

"They need us to win, and that's why we're doing this teleconference," said John Fredericks, a talk radio host and Trump's former Virginia chairman, who two weeks ago arranged for the former president to phone in to a GOP rally in suburban Richmond.

Washington Post photo by Jabin Botsford

 

It was not clear that Youngkin wants Trump, who lost Virginia by 10 points last year, to further inject himself into the race - a neck-and-neck battle with Democrat Terry McAuliffe, a former governor who has been raising money off the prospect of a Trump-led rally.

Youngkin's campaign did not respond to requests for comment on the plan Fredericks described. Earlier in the week, when both Trump and his spokesman Taylor Budowich separately teased that former president might travel to Virginia to stump for Youngkin in person, Youngkin's spokesman declined to comment.

A Trump adviser, speaking on the condition of anonymity because the event had not been formally announced, on Friday confirmed Trump plans to take part in the tele-rally, which Bloomberg News first reported based on an anonymous source, or on the details Fredericks shared with The Washington Post. Fredericks said Trump, a frequent guest on his radio show, will formally announce the event on his program Monday morning, if not before.

Fredericks said it would be an enormous teleconference, with Trump on the line along with "thousands and thousands" of his Virginia supporters.

"It's going to be the biggest phone rally in the history of Virginia," Fredericks said. "The Republican ticket cannot win without Trump's voter base in Virginia fully engaged and turned out on game day. ... We need a huge Election Day turnout, and the only person to put them over the top in Virginia is President Donald J. Trump. Period."

Youngkin, on a tightrope as he tries to woo Trump fans without alienating moderates in the state's vote-rich suburbs, had earlier embraced the former president as he sought the GOP nomination - praising Trump by name and indulging Trump's false claim that President Biden stole the White House.

Since then, Youngkin has tried to shake any explicit association with Trump while still leaning into the culture-war themes popular with the ex-president's fans, including opposition to critical race theory, an academic concept for studying race that is not actually part of Virginia's K-12 curriculum.

Trump, who endorsed Youngkin after he won the nomination in May, has not seemed content to let him pivot away. Trump has repeatedly weighed in on the race, at times on Fredericks's show. In an appearance with Fredericks in September, Trump warned that Youngkin risks losing the Virginia governor's race by not fully embracing the Make America Great Again movement.

"The only guys that win are the guys that embrace the MAGA movement," Trump said then. "When they try to go down a railroad track ... 'Oh, yeah, love Trump. Love Trump. OK, let's go, next subject.' When they do that, nobody, they don't - they never win. They never win. They have to embrace it."

Bob Holsworth, a veteran Richmond political observer, said Trump seems to be walking a fine line of his own when it comes to Youngkin.

"Trump's playing a double game, too - wanting to take credit if (Youngkin) gets elected and distancing himself if he doesn't," Holsworth said.

Like Trump, Fredericks has seemed intent on keeping Youngkin from spinning too far from the ex-president's orbit. As Youngkin and McAuliffe started rolling across the state on rival bus tours, Fredericks started barnstorming with his own "Take Back Virginia Bus Tour."

He says it is unaffiliated with any campaign, but the radio interviews he's done along the way have tended to focus on Youngkin. At a stop in the suburban battleground of Chesterfield County earlier this week, Fredericks's guest was state Sen Amanda Chase, R-Chesterfield, the self-described "Trump in heels" who told listeners she has been working closely with Youngkin's campaign to foil what she said were plots by Democrats to steal Tuesday's election. Youngkin's team, which has deployed Chase as an official campaign surrogate, declined to comment on Chase's claims or the bus tour.

On Friday, former Trump chief strategist Stephen Bannon is scheduled to join Fredericks when the bus stops at GOP headquarters in Loudoun County. Bannon's appearance in that Northern Virginia swing territory comes with considerable risk of alienating swing voters, given that a U.S. House Committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection considers him a key witness. He has been defying the committee's subpoena.

Two weeks ago, Bannon headlined the Richmond-area rally that Trump phoned into, where participants pledged allegiance to an American flag said to have flown in Washington ahead of the insurrection. Youngkin did not attend, saying he had a conflict, but he had publicly thanked Fredericks in advance for arranging the event and provided him with campaign signs to hand out. Youngkin later tried to distance himself from it, saying it was "weird and wrong" to make a pledge to that flag.

Fredericks said he is inviting Youngkin to join Trump on the call Monday night.

"If he wants to be governor of Virginia," Fredericks said, "he will."

Published : October 30, 2021

By : The Washington Post