IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Trump takes center stage in Virginia governor's race

First Read is your briefing from "Meet the Press" and the NBC Political Unit on the day's most important political stories and why they matter.
Former President Donald Trump waves after his speech during a rally at the Iowa States Fairgrounds in Des Moines on Oct. 9, 2021.
Former President Donald Trump waves after his speech during a rally at the Iowa States Fairgrounds in Des Moines on Oct. 9, 2021.Rachel Mummey / Reuters

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.

The Connecticut connection

At 1:45 p.m. ET, President Biden delivers remarks in Hartford, Conn., to promote his “Build Back Better” legislative agenda and emphasize the importance of reducing child-care costs.

It’s worth noting: With Congress (mostly) out of town, this is Biden’s third public speech this week — after talking about the supply chain (on Wednesday) and the coronavirus (on Thursday).

So the White House is filling the messaging vacuum, but only barely.

Tweet of the day

Data Download: The numbers you need to know today

5 points: That’s Democrat Terry McAuliffe’s lead over Republican Glenn Youngkin among likely voters in Virginia’s gubernatorial contest, 51 percent to 46 percent, per a Fox News poll.

50 percent: The share of Virginia likely voters who approve of Biden’s job performance, according to the same poll.

44 percent: The increase in the Consumer Price Index for meat, poultry, fish and eggs over the last two years.

0.5 percent: The percentage increase in the Consumer Price Index for rent between August and September, a figure that the New York Times notes is a record over the past two decades.

52 percent: The portion of Americans in a new Gallup poll who believe the government is doing too many things, an inversion from last year when 54 percent said the government should be trying to solve more problems.

44,822,950: The number of confirmed cases of the coronavirus in the United States, per the most recent data from NBC News and health officials. (That’s 93,935 more since yesterday morning.)

726,379: The number of deaths in the United States from the virus so far, per the most recent data from NBC News. (That’s 2,315 more since yesterday morning.)

405,444,558: The number of total vaccine doses administered in the U.S., per the CDC. (That’s 1,073,311 more since yesterday morning.)

9,319,172: The number of booster vaccine doses administered in the U.S., per the CDC. (That’s 415,298 more since yesterday morning.)

56.7 percent: The share of all Americans who are fully vaccinated, per the CDC.

68.1 percent: The share of all U.S. adults at least 18 years of age who are fully vaccinated, per CDC.

ICYMI: What else is happening in the world

Thanks to redistricting, West Virginia Republican Reps. Alex Mooney and David McKinley will face off next year in a member-on-member primary.

Texas Democratic Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee’s district could also be gerrymandered to the point she’d be forced into a primary against fellow Democratic Rep. Al Green.

The White House is pushing Congress to reach a deal on the Democratic spending bill soon

A Southlake, Texas school leader told its teachers to balance Holocaust books with 'opposing' views.

America is rejoining the United Nations Human Rights Council, a few years after then-President Trump withdrew over criticism with how the body handled Israel.

Texas’ strict abortion law will remain in place (pending appeal) as a panel of federal judges hear the federal government’s challenge to it.

Former President Trump will be deposed Monday in protesters' lawsuit claiming a 2015 assault by his security guards.