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Analysis: This rising star Republican governor refuses to say whether Donald Trump should stop pushing the 2020 election lie

Say that massive fraud was committed and that he should/would have won and he might endorse you — or at least say something nice about you. Admit that Joe Biden won and/or that Trump is hurting the party by his continued focus on the 2020 election, and you run the risk of being called out by Trump, and getting crosswise with his powerful base.

Which brings me to Virginia Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s appearance on CBS’ “Face the Nation” on Sunday. Youngkin was asked by moderator Robert Costa what seemed like a simple question: “Former President Trump continues to falsely claim the 2020 election was stolen. Should he stop saying that?’

“Well, let me begin with my trip to Nebraska, which was really great fun. Gov. Ricketts had really helped me in my race and it was a great chance for me to show up and help in the next race to elect a Republican in Nebraska. And one of the things that I’m really focused on is helping Republican governors get elected. You know, I’ve got a big job in Virginia, and it takes the — takes the vast majority of my time, but I do think there’s spots that I can be helpful and so I plan on doing that this year. Of course, the other thing we plan on doing this year is helping congressional wins in Virginia. And I think there’s a great opportunity there.”

Which is 127 words of Youngkin not answering — or even attempting to answer — Costa’s question.

Costa, to his credit, asked Youngin again to answer the question. “What about former President Trump?” he said.

And cue Youngkin’s response:

“Well, I think this is a moment for the Republican Party to recognize exactly what I recognized last year, was this is not an or moment, but an and moment. We brought together Virginians last year, forever Trumpers, never Trumpers, independents, Democrats. We won the Latino vote, the Asian vote, the largest voter turnout for black Virginians that anybody can remember to vote for a Republican. I think this is the future of the Republican Party, which is to recognize that we have to come together in these common sense kitchen table issues that are on the forefront of everybody’s mind, inflation, schools, safe communities, an economy that isn’t stealing everybody’s hard working money through inflation, but gives them a job. This is where the Republicans –“

Costa interrupts Youngkin after another 130 words in which the governor talks about a whole lot of things — his 2021 win, the economy, the future — but doesn’t, you know, answer the question being asked.

Costa then asks, for a third time, whether Trump should “stop talking about” 2020.

And Youngkin responds this way:

“I think what I did last year was I focused on 2021. And we had 5,000 people come and volunteer at elections and that gave everybody confidence in our election process. They showed up, they voted in record numbers for a governor’s race, and we won.”

Another 46 words of not answering the question. Which, if you are counting, is 301 words uttered by Youngkin — not one of which was an answer to what Costa asked.

Like, what? Or, more accurately, WHAT?

There is, of course, a simple answer to this question. It’s something along the lines of: “Yes, Donald Trump should stop talking about 2020. He lost that election and in continuing to talk about it he distracts from the very real opportunities for Republicans this November.”

And that wouldn’t even be a debatable statement! We have plenty of evidence that Trump’s obsession with the 2020 election has hurt his party’s prospects. In early 2021, Republicans lost both of the Georgia Senate runoffs — and with it, control of the Senate — because Trump couldn’t stop talking about the last election.

“Telling everyone that the race was stolen when it wasn’t cost the Republicans two Senate seats,” Georgia-based conservative blogger Erick Erickson told NPR after the elections.
So, why does Youngkin not, you know, just answer the question? Because he may want to run for president in 2024 if Trump decides to take a pass on the race. And he believes that the only path to the Republican nomination is through (and with) the Trump base. Insisting in a very public format that Trump should stop talking about the 2020 election could cost him that chance.
Youngkin is probably right. Remember that Trump pulled his endorsement of Alabama Rep. Mo Brooks’ Senate campaign after he told a crowd that the party (and Trump) needed to move on from the 2020 election.
“Mo Brooks of Alabama made a horrible mistake recently when he went ‘woke’ and stated, referring to the 2020 Presidential Election Scam, ‘Put that behind you, put that behind you,'” said Trump in a statement rescinding the endorsement.

But man, it’s hard to watch the pretzel that Youngkin twisted himself into to avoid answering a question that has a decidedly simple answer.

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