Back in April, Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin thought he had put speculation on a possible presidential campaign to rest.
“I am wholly focused on the Commonwealth of Virginia, and I’m looking forward to these elections,’’ he said.
But the latest reports throw his plans into question. After he released a campaign-style video, a close source told Axios that a push from GOP donors, who are concerned about Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, has led the governor to rethink his moves for 2024.
“He’s reconsidering,” the source said. “He’d be in his own lane: He’s not never-Trump, and he’s not Trump-light.”
Youngkin denied the speculation surrounding a possible campaign.
“It is so humbling that there is an expectation that I might do this,” he said Wednesday, adding, “And it is also encouraging that they like what we’re doing in Virginia.”
“But I’m going to continue to focus on Virginia,” Youngkin said.
This news coincides with DeSantis’ anticipated announcement for 2024 on Wednesday. In polls, DeSantis continues to trail behind former President Donald Trump, who remains the favorite Republican primary candidate.
As for Youngkin, if he does decide to run, he might wait until after Virginia state legislative elections in November to jump into the race.
Despite the rumors, the governor’s senior adviser, Dave Rexrode, said that Youngkin’s attention was on Virginia and not the presidential race.
“Governor @GlennYoungkin is focused on Virginia. Anyone who anonymously says otherwise probably isn’t as close to the Governor as they want people to think,” said Rexrode in a tweet.
During the gubernatorial election in 2021, Youngkin helped reestablish the GOP majority in the state House of Representatives by “campaigning on promises to end COVID-19 restrictions, cut taxes, banish perceived wokeness from public institutions and elevate the role of parents in K-12 schools,” as the Virginia Mercury reported.
Governor @GlennYoungkin is focused on Virginia. Anyone who anonymously says otherwise probably isn’t as close to the Governor as they want people to think.— Dave Rexrode (@DRexrode) May 23, 2023
The chatter about him launching a bid this year intensified last week when Youngkin tweeted a one-minute-long campaign-style video.
“We can usher in a new era of American values. President Ronald Reagan changed lives and now it’s our turn,” he says in the video. “A time to choose life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness over oppression and dictatorial rule.”
The clip, paid for by Spirit of Virginia, Youngkin’s super PAC, is from his appearance at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California, in early May.
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. pic.twitter.com/IH8enVaL5B— Glenn Youngkin (@GlennYoungkin) May 18, 2023
A political expert told an NBC affiliate that the clip looked like a presidential ad.
“It has nothing to do with Virginia,” said Larry Sabato, director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia. In fact, Youngkin doesn’t mention his state even once.
Rexrode, Youngkin’s senior adviser, denied the claim and reaffirmed Virginia as the governor’s sole focus.
But Sabato said that Youngkin can still enter the race by the end of this year, around when voters might be “looking for a fresh face.”
Although, waiting past the summer could put him behind other candidates in fundraising and voter outreach, but he could receive a boost if he manages to have a big influence on Virginia’s fall state legislative elections.