The host of the event, Martha Boneta, said of a woman who took the stage with the flag, “She carries an American flag that was carried at the peaceful rally with Donald J. Trump on January 6th.”
Headlined by former Trump White House political adviser Steve Bannon, the rally was designed to support the entire Republican ticket in Virginia, led by Youngkin. Although the former President called for praising the GOP candidate as “a great gentleman, truly accomplished”, Youngkin was not in attendance.
The rally — and the decision to chant the Oath of Allegiance to a flag carried at a rally that led to the first invasion of the US Capitol since the British burned it in the early 19th century — points to the underlying contradiction. It is central to Youngkin’s campaign: While not alienating the Trumpist base, it must also create enough distance from the controversial former President to appeal to independents and loosely-connected Democrats.
Up until now, Youngkin had threaded that needle extremely well. He saluted and bowed enough to Trump to win the party primary, but he spent his final months highlighting his reputation as a businessman (he was chairman of the Carlyle Group, a major investment firm) and hanging “awakened” culture wrapped around his opponent’s neck — former Democratic Government Terry McAuliffe.
This rally – and commitment – took a split where Youngkin did everything to downplay and put it front and center in the race.
McAuliffe’s campaign quickly campaign adTrump told attendees that he hopes Youngkin wins because “he will do anything we want a governor to do.” The McAuliffe ad doesn’t mention the Pledge of Allegiance – or at least not yet.
Sensing the danger, Youngkin tried to emphasize that he was not present at the rally on Thursday. Regarding the flag incident on January 6, he said, “I was not involved and so I don’t know, but if that’s the case, we shouldn’t swear allegiance to that flag.” “And by the way, I’ve been very clear: There is no room for violence in America today, none, none.”
The impact of the rally – Trump’s call and commitment – remains to be seen. But with less than three weeks until the end of the campaign — Virginia elects governors in odd years — and survey showing that the race is very close, that’s the kind of problem Youngkin absolutely doesn’t want to deal with.
How he will deal with this – or not – will be a window into whether (and how) Republicans trying to win in volatile states and territories can (and will) succeed in being the servant of two masters: closed by Trump and independent voters. former President.