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Glenn Youngkin makes his closing remarks during a GOP gubernatorial candidate forum in Lynchburg, Va., on April 19, 2021.
Glenn Youngkin makes his closing remarks during a GOP gubernatorial candidate forum in Lynchburg, Va., on April 19, 2021.Kendall Warner / The News and Advance via AP file

GOP candidate says he hides his abortion positions from voters

Virginia's Glenn Youngkin says he can't tell voters his true beliefs about abortion, but he'll go "on the offensive" once in office.


Glenn Youngkin, the Republican Party's gubernatorial candidate in Virginia this year, sat down with the Washington Post in late May to talk about his candidacy. Asked how he might change state laws on guns and abortion, Youngkin "repeatedly evaded the topics."

A month later, the Post's editorial board pressed the GOP candidate to start "adding details" to his slogans. The same editorial said Youngkin may be a first-time candidate, but he's already "mastering the duck and the dodge," adding, "For Mr. Youngkin, silence on the substance of policy is a strategy."

With Election Day in the commonwealth just four months away, Youngkin's campaign website still doesn't have an issues page. In contrast, former Gov. Terry McAullife (D), his party's 2021 nominee, has an issues page and a governing blueprint in 13 specific policy areas.

On at least one major issue, it appears the problem is that the Republican just doesn't want voters to know what he thinks. The HuffPost reported overnight:

Virginia's GOP gubernatorial candidate, Glenn Youngkin, alluded in an undercover video released Wednesday that he has limited his public comments about his full stance on abortion rights so he doesn't alienate independent voters.... The video, shot at a campaign event last month, was released by Lauren Windsor, who runs an online political show called "The Undercurrent." It was initially published by the American Independent, a liberal news site, and parts of the footage later aired on MSNBC.

In the clip, the GOP gubernatorial hopeful is asked about his willingness to "take it to the abortionists." Youngkin replied, "I'm going to be really honest with you. The short answer is in this campaign, I can't. When I'm governor and I have a majority in the House we can start going on offense. But as a campaign topic, sadly, that in fact won't win my independent votes that I have to get."

In other words, the would-be governor could share his views on an important issue, but if he did, he'd likely lose. The Republican will instead wait to "start going on offense" until after he's in office.

As an electoral matter, Youngkin's shell game may seem understandable. As regular readers know, in the not-too-distant past, Republicans had plenty of reasons to see Virginia as a GOP stronghold. In 1992 and 1996, for example, Bill Clinton, who won two national elections with ease, lost the commonwealth twice. Similarly, in 2000 and 2004, George W. Bush won Virginia twice, and neither contest was especially close.

Throughout this era, Republicans dominated most of Virginia's congressional delegation and enjoyed sizable majorities in the state legislature. Virginia was, for all intents and purposes, "red."

Arguably no state has changed more over the last 15 years than Virginia, where Republicans haven't won a statewide election since 2009. Democrats now control the governor's office, the lieutenant governor's office, the attorney general's office, the state legislature, and most of the congressional delegation. At the presidential level, the Democrats' national ticket has won four of the last four elections -- with Joe Biden winning the commonwealth by nearly double digits.

Glenn Youngkin is no doubt aware of this. Indeed, it's obviously what's driving his reluctance to talk about his beliefs, especially on a hot-button issue such as abortion rights.

But candidates hiding their policy views is wholly at odds with how democracies are designed to function. Those seeking positions of public trust have a responsibility to tell voters what they'd do with power once in office, and then allow the electorate to make an informed choice.

Youngkin's views on abortion may not be popular with many Virginians, but the campaign offers him an opportunity to defend his position and encourage voters to agree with him. Keeping his views hidden isn't how the process is supposed to work.