Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s potential late entry into the 2024 field seems destined to fail from the start

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Gov. Glenn Youngkin of Virginia is reportedly reconsidering a 2024 presidential run.

Gov. Glenn Youngkin of Virginia is reconsidering a 2024 presidential run, per a recent Axios report.
But such a decision would be rife with peril, with Youngkin far down the pack of GOP contenders.
Youngkin also faces a tighter window to seek the presidency as he can’t run for reelection in 2025.

After Glenn Youngkin was inaugurated as Virginia’s 74th governor last year, he quickly became a potential dark-horse 2024 Republican presidential contender — largely among the conservatives and moderates within the party weary of another candidacy from former President Donald Trump.

Youngkin, buoyed by his 2021 victory over former Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe in a state that in 2020 backed President Joe Biden by a 10-point margin, has been touted as a candidate who could appeal to both economic conservatives and independents who had moved away from the GOP during the Trump era.

But Trump — who remains hugely popular among the Republican base — was always likely to avenge his 2020 defeat. And Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida, who just jumped into the GOP race last week, has long been seen as Trump’s top rival for the nomination.

In recent weeks, though, DeSantis’ stock has faltered among voters leery of him backing a new Florida six-week abortion ban and his continued battles with the Walt Disney Company rooted in their opposition to the state’s “Don’t Say Gay” law — efforts that many feel could hurt the GOP further with swing voters.

Enter Youngkin, who managed to flip a Democratic-leaning state while performing strongly with the sort of conservatives who any Republican would need to capture the nomination. Axios last week reported that Youngkin was reconsidering a 2024 presidential run after having seemingly shut the door on a bid in April.

Some in the GOP might say that the governor could save the party in the suburbs next year. But a Youngkin presidential campaign would have a hard time getting off the ground, due to Trump’s enduring influence in the party, DeSantis’ amplified focus on hot-button cultural issues, and the unique circumstances that tend to hold back Virginia governors from seeking national office.

Former President Donald Trump speaks to supporters at his rally in Waco, Texas, on March 25, 2023.

Trump remains the GOP juggernaut

Trump can write one controversial post on Truth Social and get more publicity than a sitting governor presiding over millions of people.

Youngkin, who is barred from running for reelection in 2025 under Virginia law, surely recognizes this dynamic. As the governor focuses on trying to win state legislative seats this year, Trump is campaigning throughout the country, with the former president’s political standing having solidified after he was indicted by the Manhattan District Attorney’s office over his involvement in a hush-money payment made to the adult film actress Stormy Daniels.

Where Republican presidential polls earlier this year had DeSantis lapping on Trump’s once-robust national leads, the former president has reclaimed his dominant position in the GOP race.

As of May 31, the GOP polling average on FiveThirtyEight had Trump ahead of DeSantis 54.1%-20.7%, with former Gov. Nikki Haley of South Carolina at 4.6% support, Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina at 1.9% support, and likely contender and former Vice President Mike Pence earning 5.4% support. And the Trump campaign has been making a disciplined and concerted effort to boost the former president in the early nominating states of Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina — as well as in delegate-rich Texas.

If Youngkin does enter the GOP race, potentially after the Virginia legislative races this fall, he would have to work to catch up with the leading candidates in a matter of weeks, an incredibly tall order for someone without a national Rolodex and lower name recognition among base voters in key states.

Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida at a news conference in Miami, Fla., on January 26, 2023.

GOP voters want a conservative push on social issues

Republicans in conservative-heavy states across the country have sought to fall in line on a range of high-profile issues, including abortion, LGBTQ rights, book banning, immigration, and the teaching of race in schools.

DeSantis, who has staked his political brand in signing into law a wave of conservative legislation as part of what he has said is reflective of Florida’s push for “freedom,” has dug on in his clashes with Disney, embraced policies that target the transgender community, pushed to reshape the framework of a pilot AP African American Studies course set to be offered in select schools across the country, and flew migrants to Martha’s Vineyard in an attempt to hit back at Democrats over border control.

The Florida governor used his political capital last year to help install allies in school board positions across the state, which has put them in the position to affect the educational direction of millions of students.

Youngkin has not been shy about embracing positions on transgender rights and the discussion of race in public education that run contrary to the ideologies of previous governors including McAuliffe and Ralph Northam.

The governor campaigned aggressively against critical race theory during his 2021 campaign, despite the discipline generally being taught only at the collegiate level. He has pushed to reshape transgender policies in schools, in a move that was widely decried by many advocates and Democratic lawmakers.

These issues might would hold resonance in a GOP primary, but any attempt by Youngkin to lean into these issues would blunt his message as a more amendable candidate to swing voters, as a push to “out-DeSantis” DeSantis would almost certainly fall flat.

Virginia House Speaker Todd Gilbert, left, gavels to order the special session of the Virginia General Assembly in Richmond, Va., on September 7, 2022. All 140 seats in the legislature are up for grabs in the November 2023 elections.

Virginia’s political cycle creates major obstacles

Governors of the Commonwealth, who were elected in non-presidential years and are restrained by their inability to seek consecutive gubernatorial terms, have to start defining their political legacies as soon as they arrive at the Governor’s Mansion in Richmond.

This year, Youngkin is seeking to maintain control of the Virginia House of Delegates, which has a slim 50-46 GOP majority (with four vacancies), while also working to flip the Virginia Senate, which has a 22-18 Democratic majority. The seats in both chambers are all up for grabs this year, under new lines that were drawn after the 2020 Census.

Democrats have made huge inroads in the state’s urban and suburban corridors in recent years, with Republicans still dominant in rural areas. But the key to control of both chambers will lie in the suburbs, where Trump remains unpopular and where Youngkin performed well enough in 2021 to defeat McAuliffe by two points statewide.

However, the political landscape has changed dramatically over the past two years, with abortion becoming a more potent issue. While the Democratic-led state Senate served as a bulwark against Youngkin’s desire to implement a 15-week abortion ban, neither party has given up on the issue despite it helping boost Democratic candidates across the country last year.

J. Miles Coleman, the associate editor of Sabato’s Crystal Ball at the University of Virginia Center for Politics, told Insider that abortion has the potential to reshape how control of the legislature will be decided this November.

“Youngkin’s win in 2021 and the mini-wave that helped the Republicans flip the state House was before Roe v. Wade was overturned,” Coleman said. “There was a Texas abortion case that was being heard in the Supreme Court earlier, but even then it was still theoretical.”

“But in almost every special election since the Roe v. Wade was overturned, Democrats have really been overperforming expectations,” he added, pointing to the January special election win of now-state Sen. Aaron Rouse of Virginia Beach and the robust February special election victory of now-Rep. Jennifer McClellan of Richmond.

 

Read the original article on Business Insider

​Politics, Glenn Youngkin, Virginia, Donald Trump, Ron DeSantis, Republican Party, Social Issues, 2024 presidential election, analysis  

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