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The Virginia GOP holds a drive through primary to select candidates for the 2021 general election, on May 08 in Annandale, VA.

Source: The Washington Post / Getty

Imitation is usually considered the greatest form of flattery. But when imitation trends toward co-opting, it can come across as stealing another’s ideas. 

Virginia-based political strategist Atima Omara noticed a striking similarity between Republican Glenn Youngkin’s recent ad entitled “Focused” and an ad from Sen. Reverend Raphael Warnock.  

Warnock’s puppy ad was a clever attempt to cut through some of the noise coming from former Sen. Kelly Loeffler and her supporters. It’s kind of hard to paint someone as an “evil radical liberal” when they have such a cute puppy in tow.  

The Warnock ad was also a viral sensation ahead of the Senate runoff election, with millions of views. Trevor Southerland responded to Omara with the OG puppy commercial from former Maryland Lt. Gov. Michael Steele.


While Steele’s video also references liking puppies, Omara said Youngkin’s video borrowed directly from the Warnock version. The racial dynamics in Warnock’s race required a careful approach to connect with voters and neutralize against attacks meant to paint the reverend as a scary Black man.

It’s more likely Youngkin’s team ripped off the Warnock ad, thinking it’s a gimmick to distract voters from his questionable record. The imitation ad also comes after an ad released by former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe‘s campaign, drawing a connection between the Republican candidate and Donald Trump’s election lies. 

While he has tried to distance himself from the former president, Youngkin is slated to appear at an “election integrity” event that coincides with the anniversary of the Voting Rights Act. In February, he also launched a so-called “election integrity” task force.  

Prior to winning the Republican primary, Youngkin wouldn’t acknowledge President Joe Biden as winning the 2020 election.

On its face, election integrity sounds like a positive effort to support. But Republicans have used that phrase as a cover for activities that target voting rights under the guise of preventing virtually non-existent voter fraud.  

There is no evidence of issues with Virginia’s system of election administration that justify valid integrity concerns. In the past two years, Virginia has been at the forefront of expanding voting rights, legalizing marijuana, and advancing criminal justice reforms, including abolishing the death penalty. 

Locked in a tight race for governor with McAuliffe, Youngkin and Republicans are trying to undo Virginia’s Democratic trifecta. Polls show McAuliffe with a slim lead ahead of the November election.   


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GOP Candidate Copies Sen. Raphael Warnock’s ‘I Love Puppies’ Ad  was originally published on