Jul 18, 2022 - Politics

Youngkin presidential buzz grows louder

Photo illustration of Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin with lines radiating from him.

Photo Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios; Photo: Robb Hill/Washington Post via Getty Images

Speculation about Gov. Glenn Youngkin's presidential ambitions reached new heights last week as he announced massive fundraising hauls and began national campaign stops.

Why it matters: Our governor, who has never before held elective office, just crossed the six-month mark in Richmond.

  • And depending on who's talking, he's either the GOP's best opportunity to move past former President Donald Trump or a political neophyte whose national ambitions don't yet merit serious consideration.

What's happening: Over the course of a few weeks, Youngkin flew out to New York to meet with GOP megadonors, traveled to Nebraska to give a speech at the state's GOP convention and reported raising a record $1.5 million in the second quarter for his PAC.

Youngkin's appeal is not rooted in any specific accomplishments since taking office, but instead his success in dealing with Trump as he ran for office last year, argues John F. Harris, a founding editor of Politico, in a recent column.

  • Youngkin managed to keep Trump at arm's length without alienating the former president or his base, which turned out to vote for Youngkin in big numbers alongside the suburban voters Trump had put off, Harris notes.
  • And even as he's embraced the culture wars at home, Youngkin has cultivated a friendlier image on the national stage than Florida Gov. Ron Desantis, who championed what critics call the state's "Don't Say Gay" law.

What they're saying: His supporters "think the 55-year-old former investment banker may have found a formula to make the last six years just fade away — to return to the GOP leadership style we associate with names like Bush and Romney," Harris wrote.

Reality check: Others, like Ed Kilgore, writing in New York Magazine, have derided the 2024 rumors as "pure silliness."

  • Youngkin's success to date has less to do with political talent, Kilgore suggests, and more to do with the well-known political winds at play in Virginia's off-year gubernatorial elections, in which the party that recently lost the White House almost always prevails.
  • Plus: Trump says he plans to run again in 2024, and he remains the runaway favorite in GOP primary polling.

Even some allies are urging Youngkin to slow down.

  • Former Democratic Gov. Doug Wilder, who has been friendly to Youngkin, told Politico that his own decision to chase a presidential bid in 1991 was the worst decision he made in office.

Some GOP die-hards who attended Youngkin's recent speech in Nebraska had a similar message.

  • Harold McPheron, a 66-year-old Navy retiree, told the Washington Post he'd followed Youngkin's rise and would love to see him run for president — just not yet.
  • "I would say more like in '28 or '32," McPherson said.

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