Glenn Youngkin addresses a crowd of supporters in Richmond during his first rally after winning the GOP’s nomination for governor. (Ned Oliver/Virginia Mercury)
In the GOP field of gubernatorial candidates, only one was ever willing to call Joe Biden the legitimate winner of the 2020 presidential election.
It was not Glenn Youngkin, who won the Republican nomination this week.
That changed pretty quickly this week as he began his pivot to the general election.
His campaign emailed reporters Wednesday a clip from an appearance on a radio show earlier in the day, where he was asked, “When you’re asked the question, flat out, was the election of 2020 legitimate or not, what are you going to say?”
Youngkin responded, “I’m saying, of course. He’s our president. He slept in the White House last night. He’s addressed a Joint Session of Congress. He’s signing executive orders that I wish he wasn’t signing.”
In an interview the night before with Axios, Youngkin offered the same line, though only after “several minutes of dodging,” wrote reporter Dan Primack.
Since he announced his campaign in January, Youngkin had steadfastly avoided giving a firm answer to the question, going only so far as to acknowledge that Biden had been inaugurated.
And he made what he called “an election integrity task force” a centerpiece of his campaign, mailing membership cards to supporters and campaigning with Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, one of Trump’s staunchest defenders, as he worked to win over GOP voters.
Addressing supporters for the first time since winning the nomination on Tuesday, he made clear that calls for tighter election laws, including reinstating a voter ID requirement repealed by Democrats, are still on his agenda.
But otherwise he appeared to distance himself from Trump and the conspiracy theories the former president has stoked, removing public listings of videos he had shared that included a clip of Trump praising him by name.
The move came the same morning Trump officially endorsed him, a nod of support that Youngkin did not mention as he addressed the crowd Tuesday.
Democrats, who have tried to tag the retired private equity CEO as a political extremist, said it was too little too late.
“Glenn Youngkin doesn’t get a pass after months perpetuating Donald Trump’s dangerous lie that led to the Jan. 6 insurrection and cost American lives,” said Manuel Bonder, a spokesman for the Democratic Party of Virginia. “Until Youngkin denounces this lie and clearly says Donald Trump lost to President Biden in a free, fair and legitimate election, we’ll take him at his word that he believes ‘election integrity’ is the most important issue in this race.”
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