With his term coming to an end, outgoing Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe is pulling no punches; at least, when it comes to President Donald Trump.
The Democrat has been giving a series of interviews as he prepares to leave office this weekend, hinting at a potential presidential bid in 2020, but his most noteworthy one so far came as he chatted with MSNBC’s Chris Matthews Thursday.
The “Hardball” host asked McAuliffe what he might do if Trump ever “leaned over the back of you” in a debate, as he did when he was squaring off against Hillary Clinton in a 2016 debate.
“You’d have to pick him up off the floor,” McAuliffe replied.
That answer drew a long bout of laughter from Matthews, who pressed the outgoing governor for details: “You mean, you’d deck him?”
“I’ve always said, Chris, you punch me, I’m going to punch you back twice as hard,” McAuliffe said, stone-faced. “And it wouldn’t be hard to do it but you know, this guy thinks he can intimidate everybody. It’s disgraceful, it’s embarrassing but I tell you when we take him on, back in his face, with the facts, don’t take anything from him and hit him back as hard as you possibly can. But if he ever came over and leaned on me and got in my space, that would be the last time Donald Trump ever did that. I promise you that.”
McAuliffe was elected in 2013, but will give way to his lieutenant governor and fellow Democrat, Gov.-elect Ralph Northam, on Saturday. Virginia governors are constitutionally barred from seeking consecutive terms.
Political analysts have frequently suggested that McAuliffe, a longtime Democratic fundraiser and friend of the Clinton family, could use his time in Richmond as a springboard for a White House run. In recent days, McAuliffe has refused to rule out the possibility, though he would preclude a run for Congress anytime soon.