‘Not About Trump’: Terry McAuliffe Shifts Communication Strategy Days Before Election

ROANOKE, VIRGINIA - NOVEMBER 01: Democratic gubernatorial candidate, former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe speaks to during a campaign event at Sweet Donkey Coffee November 1, 2021 in Roanoke, Virginia. The Virginia gubernatorial election, pitting McAuliffe against Republican candidate Glenn Youngkin, will be held tomorrow. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
Win McNamee/Getty Images

Virginia Democrat gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe shifted his communication strategy away from Donald Trump the weekend before Tuesday’s election.

McAuliffe said in Virginia Beach on Saturday his campaign is “not about Trump,” despite constantly attempting to bring Donald Trump into the statewide election for months.

McAuliffe also doubled down Sunday on CNN, saying the election was no longer about Trump. “I’d love to have him come in,” McAuliffe said of Trump. “But you know… this is not about Trump.”

The change in direction comes as McAuliffe has accused Republican candidate Glenn Youngkin of being a “Trump wannabe.”

“I would love to hear my opponent say what they did…is unacceptable. How hard is that for a candidate for governor to say?” McAuliffe said in relation to January 6 incident. 

The media, too, have perpetuated McAuliffe’s talking point. For example, CNN wrote Saturday that Trump will be responsible for McAuliffe’s victory if he wins.

“Donald Trump may not physically be in Virginia for the commonwealth’s critical off-year elections. But to Glenn Youngkin’s most ardent supporters, the way their candidate has kept Trump at a distance will all be worth it if he wins on Tuesday,” CNN reported.

McAuliffe’s campaign strategy of linking Youngkin to Trump was also on display when President Biden stumped for the Democrat last week, naming Trump 24 times.

“Terry’s opponent has made all of his private pledges of loyalty to Donald Trump. But what is really interesting to me is he won’t stand next to Donald Trump now that the campaign is on,” Biden claimed. “He is willing to pledge his loyalty to Trump in private, why not in public? What is he trying to hide? Is there a problem with Trump being here? Is he embarrassed?”

But McAuliffe’s campaign against Trump instead of focusing on state issues has likely cost the Democrat polling numbers. Last week, McAuliffe lost his average polling lead on Youngkin. Another Fox News poll marked the Democrat eight points behind his challenger.

Moreover, Republicans seem to have enthusiasm on their side. Among those who reside in rural Virginia, Youngkin holds a large lead, 61 percent to 33 percent. Youngkin’s numbers in rural Virginia are greater than Donald Trump’s numbers in 2020.

Youngkin has been running a campaign primarily on education and parents’ ability to direct their children’s education. “We must empower parents, and address their concerns about school safety, the school curriculum and the decline in standards and results in Virginia schools,” Youngkin wrote in a Fox News op-ed Monday.

Youngkin has also bashed Attorney General Merrick Garland for allowing an FBI probe into parents that was predicated on a faulty memo from National School Board Association (NSBA) which labeled parents “domestic terrorists.”

“Instead of investigating parents, the Department of Justice should be investigating those who were involved in the coverup,” Youngkin said.

Follow Wendell Husebø on Twitter @WendellHusebø

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