RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — After much speculation about a possible presidential run, Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin confirmed Monday that he would not be getting out on the presidential campaign trail later this year. But 8News political analyst Rich Meagher pointed out that the governor’s comments to Wall Street Journal Editor-at-Large Gerard Baker still left the door open for 2024.
Making his way back from an international trade mission in Taiwan, Japan and South Korea, the Virginia governor took part in a Milken Institute conversation in Beverly Hills, Calif.
“Are you going to be dusting off that fleece jacket and getting out on the presidential campaign trail later this year?” Baker asked.
“No,” Youngkin responded. “I’m going to be working in Virginia this year.”
Questions about a possible presidential run for the Republican governor have been swirling since at least 2021, when Youngkin defeated former Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe. Since then, Youngkin, when faced with inquiries about his 2024 presidential ambitions, has pivoted his response to highlight a focus on Virginia without a direct “yes” or “no” answer.
But Youngkin’s political action committee, Spirit of Virginia, has continued to garner donations, including a notable $1 million payment from donor Thomas Peterffy on April 20. Peterffy has publicly shied away from financial support of other Republican presidential hopefuls, such as former President Donald Trump and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis.
“The obvious stuff is the international trips. That’s something that you do. The traveling to campaign for other folks, which he did during the midterms last year,” Meagher said. “The other thing that Glenn Youngkin’s doing rather quietly is fundraising, dramatically fundraising, which, you know, for someone who is a one-term governor and technically does not have a future election, suggests that he at least has an eye on the future.”
Meagher, an Associate Professor of Political Science and Director of Social Entrepreneurship at Randolph-Macon College in Ashland, said that Youngkin’s trip to Taiwan was particularly notable because of its alliance with the United States amid tensions with China. Meanwhile, DeSantis was also in Asia in recent days, visiting Tokyo, Japan.
“It does appear that the governor would like to leave open the door for a possible presidential campaign. At the same time, he understands that there are important elections here in Virginia this year and that he is playing the role of the party leader, I think, very responsibly trying to suggest that his attention is still focused on Virginia, that he’ll be here, that he’ll finish out his term,” Meagher said. “He’s trying to have his cake and eat it, too.”
On Monday, Gov. Youngkin reaffirmed his commitment to maintaining Republican leadership of the Virginia House and flipping the Democratic-controlled Senate. But Meagher noted that this focus could still play favorably for the governor’s possible 2024 presidential run.
“He’s fundraising for his political action committee, which enables him to do multiple things,” Meagher said. “He could raise some money that could be useful for him in a presidential campaign. But raising the money also might help him give donations to other candidates who are running right here in Virginia or elsewhere, and that’s one of the ways that you build power in a political party, is you win friends and influence people by writing them campaign checks.”
Virginia’s next gubernatorial election will be held in 2025. Youngkin will be ineligible to run for re-election in that role, however, as the Constitution of Virginia prohibits the Commonwealth’s governors from serving consecutive terms.
“So, in the words of LBJ [President Lyndon B. Johnson], you will not seek, and, if nominated, you will not serve and accept the Republican nomination for President of the United States?” Baker asked.
“We’ll leave that one to LBJ,” Youngkin responded. “But what I am very excited about is that America seems to be paying attention to what’s going on in Virginia, and I think America is because I believe what we’re demonstrating is, first of all, we can do this differently, and we can bring commonsense solutions to bear on some of these perennially challenging problems.”