White House next stop for Youngkin?

Published 7:50 pm Friday, July 15, 2022

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Buzz is building about a possible 2024 presidential bid by Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin, and for good reason. Or actually several good reasons.

First, Virginia governors who are reasonably popular always make the presidential speculation lists because of the fact that they are limited to a single term and thus can’t be accused of job-hopping. By the time the 2024 race begins in earnest, Youngkin will be in the second half of his four-year term and itching for his next race.

Second, Republicans nationally, as they become more open-minded to a 2024 nominee other than former President Donald Trump, have to be mighty tempted to pick a candidate who can win a purple state. Youngkin, in a speech over the weekend to party faithful in Nebraska, labeled Virginia “deep blue,” a slight exaggeration of his political acumen. But it’s true that Virginia had been getting steadily bluer for a decade or more, until Youngkin shocked pundits with his win over Terry McAuliffe last fall.

Move Virginia to the GOP column in the Electoral College, as Youngkin would likely ensure, and the math gets a lot easier for Republicans. Youngkin, who is far less abrasive than Trump and even Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, the assumed alternative should Trump not be the nominee in 2024, is most likely among the three to put states like Arizona and Pennsylvania back in red on the national map.

In beating McAuliffe, Youngkin proved masterful at making the Democrat pay for unpopular positions (i.e., marginalization of parents in public school decision-making and broad-brush condemnation of law enforcement) while minimizing the impact of his own political liabilities (i.e., abortion restrictions and his tap-dance with Trump). It’s a style and playbook that could play well far beyond Virginia.

“Gov. Youngkin showed the country what the future of the Republican Party can be,” Ray Washburne, a wealthy businessman and Republican donor in Dallas, told the Washington Examiner recently. “Youngkin is the fresh new voice the party, and country, needs.”

The governor is doing little to dampen the speculation. He’s hitting the national speaking circuit (he spoke over the weekend at the Nebraska Republican Party’s state convention) and raised $2.64 million for his political action committee during the first six months of the year. That’s more than double what his three immediate predecessors raised during their first six months in office.