May 22, 2023 - Politics & Policy

Scoop: Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin reconsiders 2024 bid

Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin speaks May 1 at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, Calif. Photo: David McNew/Getty Images

Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin is reconsidering a bid for the 2024 GOP presidential nomination, after earlier taking himself out of the race as polls made former President Trump look increasingly formidable, top Republican sources tell Axios.

Why it matters: Youngkin, 56 — who beat former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) for the Old Dominion governor’s mansion in 2021 — is a leading potential future face of the Republican Party. He’s Christian and conservative — but not as Trumpy as many of the GOP’s current stars.

What's happening: Youngkin told Richmond reporters in April that he was focused on this fall’s Virginia legislative races.

  • "Listen, I didn’t write a book, and I'm not in Iowa or New Hampshire or South Carolina," he said. "I am wholly focused on the Commonwealth of Virginia."
  • But that has changed amid a rocky few months for Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R), who is expected to announce his presidential candidacy Wednesday.

What we’re hearing: Some powerful GOP donors, who won't support Trump but are beginning to be concerned about DeSantis, are encouraging Youngkin to jump into the 2024 field.

  • "He's reconsidering," a top source close to Youngkin told Axios. "He'd be in his own lane: He's not never-Trump, and he's not Trump-light."
  • A top Virginia GOP strategist told Axios there are "serious discussions happening on re-engaging in the presidential" race.

Youngkin faces high-stakes state legislative races in November. So an announcement about a presidential race is likely to wait until right after that, Republican sources said.

  • A senior Youngkin aide told Axios: "If the guy flips any seats at all, it's proof that his political machine is ready to go."

Context: Speculation about a Youngkin presidential bid was reignited last week after his political team dropped a video with the message:

  • "It's time to usher in a new era of American values. It's our turn to choose life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness."
  • Dave Rexrode, senior adviser to Youngkin, said in a statement Tuesday: "Governor Youngkin is focused on Virginia. Anyone who anonymously says otherwise probably isn’t as close to the Governor as they want people to think."

Between the lines: Virginia governors have just four years in office — they can't serve consecutive terms. That makes it tough to spend the final year of the term in Iowa, New Hampshire and other early-voting states.

  • "2028 may be the real play," the source close to Youngkin said. "A lot of these guys consider this a dress rehearsal."

Editor's note: This story has been updated with comment from Dave Rexrode, a Youngkin senior adviser.

Axios' Alexi McCammond contributed reporting.

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