Biden allies hit Trump on outreach to veterans ahead of Virginia rally

Biden campaign allies slammed former President Trump ahead of a rally in Virginia on Friday, hitting him over the lapse of a veterans’ outreach center in the state and dismissing talk that the GOP nominee will flip the commonwealth in November.

Trump is slated to rally alongside Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R) in Chesapeake, Va., where there is a high concentration of veterans. The rally location is not far from where the Republican National Committee (RNC) in 2022 opened a first-of-its-kind veterans community center in Virginia Beach, Va.

At the time, the organization hailed the center as a place to help veterans and military families get involved with Republican campaigns. The location was chosen specifically because of the high concentration of veterans in the area.

But the veterans center is no longer operating. Federal Election Commission filings show the party last paid rent on the property in January of 2023, well before the GOP primary got underway. It has since been replaced by a pet spa.

“No one is surprised that Donald Trump closed the RNC’s veterans outreach center after his long history of disrespecting our troops – from slashing veterans’ benefits, to calling veterans ‘suckers’ and ‘losers,’” Terron Simms, an Iraq war veteran from Virginia and Chair of the DNC’s Veterans and Military Families Council, said in a statement.

“With his words and with his actions, Trump has made it clear to veterans and service members that he simply does not care about us, our families, or our votes,” Simms added.

Virginia Democrats held a press conference on Friday morning hitting Trump as bad for veterans ahead of his rally. The Virginia Mercury reported Missy Cotter Smasal, the Democratic nominee in Virginia’s 2nd Congressional District, pulled out of the event at the last minute.

The RNC’s budget only lasts through a chair’s term, meaning all leases ended at the end of then-Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel’s term at the end of 2022.

The RNC has in recent months closed various outreach centers across the country as it changed over its leadership. Michael Whatley, the new GOP chairman, has said the organization was evaluating its community engagement efforts to align those efforts with Trump’s campaign.

“The RNC believes that the best way to take care of our veterans is by working with the veteran community to elect President Trump,” RNC spokesperson Anna Kelly said in a statement, citing Trump’s efforts to secure a pay raise for troops and his administration’s investments in the military.

“Under President Trump’s leadership, veteran unemployment hit a record low, and he signed several historic pieces of legislation into law that reformed the VA, decreased veteran homelessness, and improved veteran education benefits,” Kelly said. “There has been no greater advocate for our military men and women than President Trump, and we look forward to sending a true veterans’ advocate
back to the White House this fall.”

Trump and President Biden sparred over their record on veterans during Thursday night’s debate, with Trump pushing back on claims from his former chief of staff that he called service members “suckers” and “losers” and Biden touting his efforts to expand health care benefits veterans.

Trump planned rally with supporters alongside Youngkin on Friday afternoon marks the first time the two will campaign together publicly during the 2024 cycle.

Polling has shown Virginia could be a much closer race than it was in 2020, when Biden carried the state by 10 percentage points over Trump.

A Fox News poll of Virginia registered voters conducted June 1-4 showed Biden and Trump tied with 48 percent each. A Roanoke College poll conducted in mid-May showed the two candidates tied in a head-to-head match-up, and it found Biden leading Trump by 2 percentage points when third-party candidates were added.

The rally comes on the heels of Thursday night’s presidential debate, where Biden’s disastrous performance has sparked concerns among some Democrats about their prospects in November.

But Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D-Va.), who is running for Virginia governor in 2025, has shrugged off the prospect of her home state flipping for Trump in November and argued the contrast between the two candidates’ records is clear.

“I certainly welcome President Biden to come to Virginia, but Virginia is not going to go for former President Trump in this election,” Spanberger told Bloomberg Television on Thursday. “I feel quite certain saying that.”

Updated at 12:44 p.m. EDT

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