With polls showing a dead heat in the race to be the next Virginia governor, Republican gubernatorial candidate Glenn Youngkin is hoping to show the world how to win purple states in the post-Trump era. An impressive showing with any sort of win in Virginia, something a Republican hasn’t done statewide since 2009, could potentially launch Youngkin into the 2024 presidential nominee discussion.
After not previously being asked to commit to serving a full term as governor if elected next week, a spokesperson for Youngkin said “Of course,” when pressed on the question. “Glenn has been very clear he is running to serve the people of Virginia and that’s what his focus will be,” said Matt Wolking, communications director for the Youngkin campaign.
A former finance executive that rose to the top of the chain at the global investment firm The Carlyle Group, Youngkin is personally worth hundreds of millions and helped finance this gubernatorial run by loaning his campaign $20 million.
Democratic gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe stated during a debate that he would serve the full term if elected again. His name was circulated briefly as a potential candidate for 2020 but he removed himself from consideration in the spring of 2019. His campaign referred Virginia Scope to McAuliffe’s statement from the debate and provided no additional comment.
While noting that his name might be mentioned for 2024 if he wins in Virginia this year, Richard Meagher, a political science professor at Randolph Macon College said it would still be an uphill climb for Youngkin. “His whole brand is that he’s not a Trump, more of a Mitt Romney type,” Meagher said. “And those kinds of candidates are not welcome in the Republican party right now.”
The nationalization of Virginia’s race this year could also increase Youngkin’s name ID on the national level with nearly every media publication covering the key bellwether race for a new American president. Virginia and New Jersey are the only high-profile elections in this off-off year — New Jersey is not competitive, making Virginia the early predictor of the country’s reaction to a Biden presidency.
It would be a quick turnaround, nonetheless, to be sworn in as Virginia governor in January of 2022 only to run for president in 2024. Additionally, Youngkin has walked the line on keeping Trump at a safe distance in a state that voted for Joe Biden by 10 points last year — which could really hurt him in a national nomination race with Trump still being the most important member of the party.
“Whether or not Trump himself runs in 2024, candidates are going to try to outdo themselves to claim his legacy,” Meagher said. “There may be room for someone to try to counter-program that, but I’m betting Youngkin would have to get in line behind someone like Romney himself.”
Election day in Virginia is Nov. 2.
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