Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump. (Mary Altaffer/Associated Press)

Virginia for the Win is a series examining Virginia’s crucial role in the 2016 presidential race and national politics.

At his Richmond rally tonight, look to see if Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump goes after Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D), using Virginia’s chief executive as a proxy for Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.

The Clinton family and McAuliffe are long-time political and business allies. Trump recently attacked McAuliffe’s executive order giving 206,000 felons the right to vote, with political experts such as University of Virginia professor Larry Sabato saying McAuliffe’s decision will boost Clinton in the race for Virginia’s 13 electoral votes.

Trump has likewise attacked McAuliffe for getting a six-figure campaign contribution from a Chinese national with ties to the country’s military-industrial complex; the same businessman gave the Clinton Foundation $2 million.

If Trump raises this and related matters tonight, then the billionaire is merely using the governor for target practice. It could signal Trump’s decision to listen to GOP political professionals begging him to go anti-Clinton 24/7 as his only path to 270 electoral votes.

Should Trump try this strategy tonight, it suggests he is leaning toward choosing former rival New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie as a running mate.

A ticket compromising two Easterners, generally viewed as more moderate than the party’s Southern and Western conservative base, may seem illogical. But Christie is a former federal prosecutor who suggested Clinton should be indicted over the private email server she maintained while secretary of state. Christie also suggested the Obama Justice Department has a double standard: trying to ruin Republicans but working to protect Democrats.

To Christie, this is personal. A federal probe into alleged illegal activities cleared Christie but probably contributed to the end of his once-promising chances to win the 2016 GOP presidential nomination.

Assuming all the damaging information has come out, Christie can be expected to claim that a Democratic-led Justice Department tried to ruin him while saving Clinton.

Remember: Christie can make this charge knowing it can’t be disproved. It’s hardball politics, and it can be infuriating.

In large measure, Trump won the GOP presidential nomination by raising doubts about his opponents. But his current image in opinion polls is the worst for any major party nominee in recent memory. If you believe the polls, Trump may not be able to overcome the potentially fatal opposition to his candidacy among key voter groups.

One potential VP choice, former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, has great appeal to the party’s pro-life, evangelical voters. But a Bible-thumping attack dog he isn’t. Moreover, Trump’s electoral strategy aims to win over working-class voters in Democratic-leaning bastions such as New York and Pennsylvania and in traditional swing states such as Ohio. They aren’t necessarily Huckabee voters.

Christie, though, is a working-class kid from gritty Newark. He’s lived the blue-collar life and fits the profile Trump needs if his campaign is to have a chance of winning those voters to his side.

Trump also needs to shore up his support among those who’ve leaned GOP in the past.

When a candidate is perceived more negatively than positively, as is Trump, the best campaign strategy is to make voters focus on your opponent’s shortcomings. Political consultants call this “making the election a referendum on your opponent.”

Since Trump’s positive attributes are not rallying swing voters to his column, the anti-Clinton pitch appears to be the best one he can throw, playing on Clinton’s negatives.

Even if it doesn’t work in November, the anti-Clinton pitch has the best chance of unifying the party in time for its upcoming national convention. Trump needs to showcase such unity, even if only for the week’s festivities.

And he needs a vice-presidential candidate who can give the troops the proverbial red meat. Christie can do it.

Christie has been cruelly lampooned for being a Trump lapdog. But loyalty in a running mate has never been a vice. Ideally, Trump would run with a top female Republican star. But he seems loath to do it. Given the still-fresh memory of former Alaska governor Sarah Palin, it seems unlikely Trump would risk taking an unknown running mate strictly for gender reasons.

Trump is mercurial enough to change his mind at the altar. But if he goes on the attack against McAuliffe in Richmond tonight, it suggests Christie may soon be riding shotgun on the campaign trail.

Norman Leahy is an editor of bearingdrift.com and producer of the Score radio show. Paul Goldman is a former senior adviser to governors Doug Wilder and Mark Warner.