Youngkin shapes template for post-Trump GOP: The Note

The Virginia Republican is toeing the line between being too pro- or anti-Trump.

October 25, 2021, 6:04 AM

The TAKE with Rick Klein

The stakes for Democrats in the race for governor in Virginia are clear enough -- and Terry McAuliffe is laying them out himself, with a few hedges that speak volumes.

"I think this race is going to set the tone, I hope, for the Democratic Party," McAuliffe, who is looking to get his old job of governor back next Tuesday, told ABC's Jonathan Karl on "This Week."

The stakes for Republicans are more complicated. But the race is testing a key theory of potential GOP success in territory that should favor a Democrat, so long as former President Donald Trump is out of office yet looming over all things political.

Republican candidate Glenn Youngkin is to be just Trump-friendly enough to keep MAGA-friendly forces happy, but not so close to Trumpism that he alienates independent voters.

PHOTO: Republican gubernatorial candidate Glenn Youngkin speaks during a rally in Glen Allen, Va., Oct. 23, 2021.
Republican gubernatorial candidate Glenn Youngkin speaks during a rally in Glen Allen, Va., Oct. 23, 2021.
Steve Helber/AP

It leaves Youngkin talking up "election integrity" but not endorsing Trump's false claims about the last election. It has him accepting Trump's support but calling it "weird and wrong" that attendees at a pro-Youngkin rally that Trump himself called into pledged allegiance to a flag purported to have been present at the Jan. 6 rally.

Democrats are pleading with voters that he can't have it both ways -- pointing out that Trump is neither gone nor forgotten in the GOP.

"You can't run, telling me you're a regular old hoops-playing, dish-washing, fleece-wearing guy, but quietly cultivate support from those who seek to tear down our democracy," former President Barack Obama said at a McAuliffe rally Saturday.

Still, a race Democrats have long sought to make about the former president is showing signs of being as much or more about the current one. President Joe Biden will be on the trail with McAuliffe on Tuesday; Trump has no plans to campaign in person for Youngkin, and his campaign seems fine with that.

The RUNDOWN with Alisa Wiersema

After much negotiation, Democrats appear to be on track to reach deals on both the social spending bill and the bipartisan infrastructure bill this week, possibly even before Biden's departure for Europe on Thursday.

"I think we're pretty much there now. We're almost there. It's just the language of it," said White House speaker Nancy Pelosi on CNN's "State of the Union" Sunday. Those comments track with the Oct. 31 vote deadline Pelosi set earlier this month, which coincides with the expiration of programs funding federal transportation projects.

The speaker's confidence about the discussions also came as Biden hosted Sen. Joe Manchin and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer at his home in Delaware. According to Pelosi, the meeting was set to address "some of the particulars that need to be finalized."

PHOTO: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi speaks at an event on climate change outside the U.S. Capitol in Washington, Oct. 20, 2021.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi speaks at an event on climate change outside the U.S. Capitol in Washington, Oct. 20, 2021.
Elizabeth Frantz/Reuters

Manchin, along with Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, had long opposed the original $3.5 trillion price tag of the social spending bill, which set out to cover a broad scope of policies ranging from child care to climate change. Although Manchin had been more open about his positions throughout negotiations, Sinema's resistance to the social spending bill has been harder to pinpoint and drew criticism from her party colleagues.

The drawn-out chaos over negotiations in Washington could translate into a messy midterm campaign cycle in which Democrats will need to continue to court independent voters in competitive races. As noted by the Washington Post's Paul Kane, in a story documenting a joint research project by Democratic pollster Joel Benenson and Republican Neil Newhouse, "The individual pieces of this massive agenda are popular, but the package is either too big for voters to comprehend or the price is so high that it sounds scary."

The TIP with Quinn Scanlan

The marquee races in Virginia and New Jersey aren't the only off-year elections happening on Nov. 2. Candidates competing in three congressional special elections are still door-knocking in the final stretch of their campaigns, hoping to drive up voter enthusiasm in what are expected to be low turnout elections.

In Florida, 11 Democrats are facing off in the 20th Congressional District primary, hoping to fill the seat currently vacant following 15-term congressman Alcee Hastings' death in April. There is no clear frontrunner, but whoever comes out on top is all but certain to win the general election in this solid-blue district.

The race hasn't received much national attention -- or money. Probable low turnout, combined with the high likelihood whichever Democrat wins will do so with just a fraction of the vote, could make the future incumbent more vulnerable to a primary challenge next year.

PHOTO: Shontel Brown gets on phone after learning she won Ohio's 11th Congressional District, Aug. 3, 2021, in Bedford Heights, Ohio.
Shontel Brown gets on phone after learning she won Ohio's 11th Congressional District, Aug. 3, 2021, in Bedford Heights, Ohio.
Stephen Zenner/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images, FILE

In Ohio, dual special elections in safely Democratic and Republican districts are not expected to change the balance of power in Congress but could be a preview of the direction each party's voters will take in 2022.

In the 11th District, Democrat Shontel Brown, deemed the establishment candidate, already defeated former state Sen. Nina Turner, the progressive who was a top surrogate for Sen. Bernie Sanders' presidential campaigns. Mike Carey, the Republican candidate in the 15th Congressional District, won his primary campaigning as a pro-Trump "outsider" with the former president's formal backing, and defeated the state representative endorsed by the GOP congressman who vacated the seat.

THE PLAYLIST

ABC News' "Start Here" podcast. Monday morning's episode begins with the latest on the accidental movie set shooting involving actor Alec Baldwin. ABC News' Jason Nathanson breaks down what we've learned from new court documents. Then, ABC News Congressional Correspondent Rachel Scott talks infrastructure while reporting from rural Mississippi, where some farmers are waiting for key bridges to be repaired. And, Virginia's gubernatorial election is just over a week away and ABC News Chief Washington Correspondent Jonathan Karl tells us Republicans in the state see the race as a bellwether as the polls tighten. http://apple.co/2HPocUL

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