Richmond, VA — Under Democratic leadership, Virginia’s economy has grown and thrived -- and before declaring his complete allegiance to Donald Trump, Glenn Youngkin was able to say so. Today, a new Business Insider report details how prior to becoming a pro-Trump Republican politician, Youngkin repeatedly praised Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s strong economic record.
See key excerpts below and read the full report here.
Business Insider: Virginia's GOP gubernatorial nominee praised the state's economy when his Democratic opponent was in charge
By Adam Wren and Warren Rojas
Glenn Youngkin was for Terry McAuliffe's economy before he was against it.
It's an uncomfortable bit of reality for Youngkin, now the GOP nominee for Virginia governor who as CEO of global investment firm The Carlyle Group routinely praised the state's economic progress while McAuliffe was its chief executive.
Youngkin and McAuliffe are in a head-to-head battle this November to lead the Old Dominion. And while the Republican is now quick to tarnish McAuliffe, an Insider review of Youngkin's public comments dating back to 2017 — during McAuliffe's first term — shows a businessman who praised the state's financial standing.
One example came in April of 2017, where Youngkin and McAuliffe played the role of moderator and panelist at the Export-Import Bank Conference in Washington, DC.
Youngkin said Virginia was "one out of 50 states that's doing very well, and has shown really great strides." In his role as moderator, Youngkin struck the pose of an eager student wanting to learn from McAuliffe.
"Governor, I'm going to come back to the role you have played in developing Virginia's economy and just sort of want to head off and have a bit of a practice session with you," Youngkin said.
"So, how do you do it? You know, here you sit as governor and you've got a state that has gone through some economic turmoil, how do you plan where to go, how do you pick the companies you are working with and the sectors?"
A few minutes later, Youngkin admitted that the panel seemed to agree that the economy wasn't in "full recovery," arguing that "there's a general sense of the US economy doing okay. And particularly, in the Commonwealth of Virginia."
"So, I hope you're all thinking about coming to Virginia," McAuliffe replied. [...]
From 'truly transformational' to 'the ditch'
Youngkin delivered praise for Virginia's economy just last year too.
In an interview with McKinsey & Company, the businessman noted that the state then under the leadership of Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam had a "high growth tech industry, a growing health care sector, and an established manufacturing presence." [...]
Back in 2019, when Virginia Polytechnic Institute announced it was building an innovation campus in Northern Virginia, Youngkin was equally enthused.
"What's happening in Northern Virginia is truly transformational, and Virginia Tech's Innovation Campus will be right at the heart of it," Youngkin said in a press release at the time. "Think of the possibilities — new technologies, new businesses, new markets, extraordinary new talent — all being created right here in Northern Virginia. And now, the scope of this ambition can be fully matched by this great location, which will be the home of the next global technology hub."
But as Youngkin remade himself into a Republican politician in the Trump era — ultimately winning the gubernatorial nomination amid a crowded field of conservatives — his appraisal of the state's economic climate changed, too.
In more than 30 public interviews, Youngkin dinged McAuliffe and "leaders in Richmond." The state's economy — despite being rated as a "Top State for Business" in 2019 — was now in "the ditch," he's repeated over and over again.
"For eight years, we all watched the McAuliffe Northam political machine drive Virginia into the ditch," Youngkin said during a May 21 campaign rally, standing in front of an American flag and cardboard boxes.
A week earlier, in an interview on the Chris Stigall Show podcast, Youngkin indicated he didn't want any economic lessons from McAuliffe. "So here we have a governor that, in fact, has driven us into the ditch with the exact same kind of political approach that Terry McAuliffe brought," he said.
"Reigniting" Virginia's "rip-roaring" economy
Youngkin did not respond to a request for comment about his past remarks about the state of the Virginia economy or his current economic strategy.
What's apparent from an Insider review of the first-time politician's press clips and social media feeds is that he is full of conservative outrage: denouncing critical race theory, blocking police reform, and shielding gun rights are all GOP go-tos on the culture war front. He's otherwise pretty much a blank slate on the policy front. [...]
Youngkin routinely talks about "reigniting" Virginia's "rip-roaring" economy without explaining how he'll spark such a revitalization. [...]
At least one Virginia Republican would seem to disagree with Youngkin's assessment. In a recent op-ed in The Virginian-Pilot calling for investment in Virginia's infrastructure, 8-term Rep. Rob Wittman stated that despite the pandemic, "Virginia still ranks in the top 10 states to do business."
Virginia Democrats took their own swing at Youngkin over his flip-flop on the state's economy.
"Before pledging his complete allegiance to Donald Trump, Youngkin knew Terry McAuliffe was an excellent governor who oversaw record economic growth and created over 200,000 good-paying jobs," Manuel Bonder, spokesman with Democratic Party of Virginia, told Insider.
"Now, Youngkin is a hypocritical, dishonest Republican politician who will say and do anything to get elected — just like Trump," he added. "Virginia needs a governor who will work to lift up all Virginians — not one who will put GOP extremism over the truth every step of the way."