The worst-kept secret in Richmond is that Gov. Glenn Youngkin is jonesing to take a stab at the 2024 Republican presidential nomination.
Have to admire how he tries to give off the vibe that he hates the attention he’s practically begging for there.
“That discussion will be whatever is available at the time,” Youngkin told CNBC congressional correspondent Ylan Mui this week at the CNBC Delivering Alpah Investor Summit in New York City. “I have to say, there is a long way between here and there. I had somebody describe it as various ages. An archeologist will have to decide what happens between here and there.
“It’s 2022, and my big focus right now is being the best governor that I can possibly be in Virginia to get our agenda moving, which I’m very pleased with how much we’ve accomplished, and to help our congressional representatives win in Virginia and to help a few governors,” Youngkin said.
It’s the helping “a few governors” and getting out on the trail in the 2022 congressional midterms that has raised Youngkin’s 2024 profile, for good and bad – the bad coming with Youngkin stumping for election-denying MAGAs like Kari Lake in Arizona, Tudor Dixon in Michigan and Derek Schmidt in Kansas.
Youngkin, in trying to cast himself as a middle-of-the-road conservative, has shown interesting resolve in being able to cast his line with candidates who are about as far from the middle of the road to his right as he is at the fringe of the center-right from the political center.
“I believe that, in fact, they’re all Republicans. And what we learned last year in my race was that bringing Republicans together is really important to win a race. And we were able to bring together forever Trumpers and never Trumpers, and we were able to bring together Libertarians and Tea Party members, independent voters. We won the independent moderate vote in Virginia, Democrats,” Youngkin said.
OK, he’s getting carried away there, claiming to win every demographic in an election that he actually won by less than two percentage points, and less than 63,000 votes out of the 3.3 million votes cast statewide.
His point, before he started letting himself believe out loud that he is King of All That He Surveys, is that he was able to unify Republicans from the center-right and far, far right behind his cause.
“And this is to recognize that all Republicans don’t all believe the same thing,” Youngkin said. “And, in fact, I do think that there’s a desire on behalf of — let’s call them political analysts – to put people into buckets, and to force that. And the reality, of course, is that it’s not about buckets competing with one another, it’s about bringing people together. That’s what we did in Virginia last year, something that pundits thought was never possible, that a Republican could actually win in Virginia.”
What Youngkin seems to be overlooking here is that the 2021 election was close, that he didn’t run as a MAGA election-denier, and that if he had done that, he wouldn’t be the governor today, even in the face of the awful, awful, awful campaign run by his Democratic opponent, Terry McAuliffe, who couldn’t seem to get out of his own way last fall, seemingly intent from the outset at snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.
Which is why Youngkin is intent on testing the presidential waters now. Virginia, famously, term-limits its governors to a single four-year term, a fact that Youngkin highlighted in his talk with Mui this week.
“I had a really interesting moment when I was inaugurated. A FedEx package arrived. I zipped it open and I read the letter. It was from Jeb Bush. It said, Governor, get moving, you only have four years. And inside was a clock counting down on four years,” Youngkin said.
“I have that clock in my office. I look at it every morning. And I recognize that we have a big agenda, and that big agenda, we only have four years to accomplish. I’m committed to completing our agenda. And I think we can. One of our cabinet members said to me, I’ve never experienced such a sense of urgency every day. I said, we only have four years, and we have a lot to get done.”
His four years end, maybe fortuitously, for Youngkin, in January 2026, ahead of the 2026 U.S. Senate cycle in which the term of Mark Warner comes back up for re-election.
Warner will be 71 heading into the 2026 cycle, not exactly near retirement age for a United States senator, but getting closer to that.
If the run at the presidential nomination doesn’t work out for Youngkin, he could always make himself available for 2026, and that in fact may be what his thinking on 2024 may be about anyway, to get his name out there, build a higher profile, then move in that direction.
He’d have to hope that swing voters would have forgotten by then his stumping for the MAGAs, but four years is a ways off.