NBC News First Read: Trump takes center stage in Virginia governor's race
By Chuck Todd, Mark Murray and Ben Kamisar
WASHINGTON — In the last 24 hours, Virginia’s contest for governor has suddenly turned into a story about Donald Trump.
And that’s become great news for Democrat Terry McAuliffe and bad news for Republican Glenn Youngkin.
It all began when Trump called into a Steve Bannon-headlined event Wednesday in Virginia for Youngkin, in which attendees recited the Pledge of Allegiance to a flag supposedly used at the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.
On Thursday, Democratic nominee Terry McAuliffe demanded Youngkin to disavow that Jan. 6 flag, and McAuliffe’s campaign even produced a TV ad on Trump’s words praising Youngkin at the event.
And then later Thursday afternoon, Youngkin released a statement saying it’s “weird and wrong” to pledge allegiance to a flag connected to Jan. 6. “As I have said many times before, the violence that occurred on January 6 was sickening and wrong,” he said.
Why is this Trump storyline good news for McAuliffe and bad news for Younkgin?
A Fox News poll of Virginia released Thursday, which has McAuliffe ahead of Youngkin by just 5 points among likely voters, finds Donald Trump to be the most unpopular figure of all the politicians it tested in the state.
- Terry McAuliffe: 52 percent favorable, 44 percent unfavorable among likely voters
- Joe Biden: 50 percent favorable, 48 percent unfavorable
- Glenn Youngkin: 48 percent favorable, 45 percent unfavorable
- Ralph Northam: 47 percent favorable, 45 percent favorable
- Donald Trump: 44 percent favorable, 53 percent unfavorable
And just in case Trump’s favorable/unfavorable numbers in Virginia look familiar, Biden beat Trump in the state by almost that same exact margin in 2020 — 54 percent to 44 percent.
Terry McAuliffe desperately wants this race to be about Trump. And the former president gave him a hand with that phone call and event. [...]