Trump teased a trip to Virginia on behalf of Republican Glenn Youngkin to ‘troll’ the media, but the stunt ‘panicked’ campaign aides: report

Virginia Gov.-elect Glenn Youngkin tosses a signed basketball to supporters at an election night party in Chantilly, Va., early Wednesday, Nov. 3, 2021, after he defeated Democrat Terry McAuliffe.
Virginia Gov.-elect Glenn Youngkin tosses a signed basketball to supporters at an election night party in Chantilly, Va., early Wednesday, Nov. 3, 2021, after he defeated Democrat Terry McAuliffe. AP Photo/Andrew Harnik
  • Former President Trump teased a trip to Virginia in the closing days of the 2021 gubernatorial race.
  • The announcement reportedly “panicked” Youngkin aides, according to The Wall Street Journal.
  • The Youngkin campaign sought to keep Trump, who remains unpopular in Virginia, at arm’s length.

During the 2021 Virginia gubernatorial campaign, Republican Gov.-elect Glenn Youngkin artfully attracted support from loyalists of former President Donald Trump while also peeling away many independent-leaning suburban voters who had previously backed Democrats in recent statewide races.

It was enough to propel the first-time candidate to victory against former Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe, who sought a return to Richmond after serving in office from 2014 to 2018.

However, President Joe Biden defeated Trump in Virginia by a 54%-44% margin last November, and the former president remained a political liability in the Commonwealth, which Republicans knew headed into the election.

Youngkin, aware that he needed to focus his race on local issues to have a shot at winning as a Republican in Democratic-trending Virginia, publicly kept his distance from Trump.

However, after the former president teased a trip to Arlington, Va., in the closing days of the election, aides to Youngkin’s campaign reportedly “panicked” at the development, according to The Wall Street Journal.

While Trump had enthusiastically endorsed Youngkin and privately spoke with the candidate by phone, the former president hadn’t mentioned anything about physically coming to Virginia, a state filled with the kinds of suburban voters who gravitated away from the GOP during his administration.

According to Republicans with knowledge of the situation who spoke with The Journal, Trump’s announcement led to several calls between the two camps, which revealed a clear motive – the former president released his message “to troll the liberals and critics in the media.”

After the issue was resolved, the Youngkin campaign proceeded with their efforts to flip the state to Republicans while Trump continued to monitor the campaign from his Mar-a-Lago club in Florida.

While Youngkin was eventually able to deflect his ties with Trump from dominating the campaign – which McAuliffe sought to use as a cudgel in the minds of the state’s voters – the situation revealed the balancing act that the Republican needed to preserve as he sought to present himself as a fresh face while also juicing conservative turnout across the state.

According to individuals who spoke with The Journal, Trump was able to control his impulses in the Virginia gubernatorial race because he believes that having a Republican in the Executive Mansion will aid him if he decides to mount a 2024 presidential campaign.

Also, with Youngkin having an extensive background in finance as a former private equity executive, Trump identified with the governor-elect, according to sources with knowledge of the former president’s thinking.