Glenn Youngkin’s Trump-adjacent balancing act is wearing thin

Glenn Youngkin’s Trump-adjacent balancing act is wearing thin
Glenn Youngkin, image via Wikimedia Commons.

Last week's TrumpWorld event spearheaded by former White House strategist Steve Bannon and fellow radio host John Fredericks in Richmond, Virginia, was not attended by Glenn Youngkin, the Republican gubernatorial nominee. Indeed, Youngkin was later forced to issue a statement denouncing part of the event, after attendees recited the Pledge of Allegiance before a flag allegedly present at the Jan. 6 insurrection.

But at least one powerful Youngkin ally was at the event cozying up to MAGAWorld allies, lending credence to charges that the nominee is, if not a full-on Trumper, at least Trump-curious. A man who identified himself as a board member at a Youngkin-connected PAC told Salon the GOP candidate was at the gathering "in spirit."

Although this "campaign adviser" did not identify himself, further investigation makes clear that he was Phil Rapp of nearby Midlothian, Virginia, who serves on the executive board of the Middle Resolution PAC. At the Bannon event in a suburban restaurant, he was wearing a navy blue Youngkin cap and a button-down shirt, and was surrounded by self-identified Youngkin volunteers, many with and yard signs.

A biography on the Middle Resolution website identifies Rapp as a onetime "activist member within the Tea Party movement" and former "Chief of Staff, Senior Advisor and Campaign Manager" to Rep. Dave Brat, a far-right Republican who unseated Rep. Eric Cantor in a 2014 GOP primary and lost his seat to Democratic Rep. Abigail Spanberger in 2018. Indeed Rapp showed Salon a photo of himself with Brat and Donald Trump taken during his days on Capitol Hill.

In April, the Middle Resolution PAC endorsed Youngkin for governor "following an extensive interview and vetting process." The multimillionaire Republican candidate said at the time that the "powerful endorsement" was a sign that "conservative momentum is with our campaign, and I'm the only candidate strong enough to beat Terry McAuliffe in November."

Youngkin's running mate, Republican lieutenant-governor nominee Winsome Sears, was originally slated to speak at the Bannon gathering in Richmond gathering but did not appear. A campaign spokesperson did not respond to questions about the last-minute no-show.

The delicate needle Youngkin is apparently attempting to thread with Trump supporters has not gone unnoticed. Bannon's co-host recently described Youngkin's strategy as "brilliant." by hardcore Trump supporters, who believe the idea of duping voters into believing he is "moderate" is rather genius.

"He doesn't go around talking about Nov. 3 [2020], but here's what he's done," Fredericks told Bannon last Thursday. "Glenn Youngkin has put together the greatest voting integrity infrastructure in the history of Virginia. He's got the RNC behind it, they have lawyers, they have a hotline, they have this whole thing. Obviously, Glenn Youngkin believes that the election in 2020 got stolen, because he's pouring millions and millions of dollars into Virginia to set up a voting integrity infrastructure that will stand the test of time."

Late last week, Youngkin issued a statement denouncing the presence of the supposed Jan. 6 flag at the Richmond event, in which he also denied any connection to the evening. "I wasn't involved, and so I don't know" anything about the flag incident, Youngkin told The Hill. "But if that is the case, then we shouldn't pledge allegiance to that flag."

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