RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — This week, Gov. Glenn Youngkin appeared to leave the door open for a possible presidential bid in 2024. He also didn’t commit to supporting Donald Trump if the former president decides to run again.
Questions surrounding Youngkin’s presidential aspirations have been amplified recently by a private meeting with Republican megadonors in New York City and a speech at Nebraska’s GOP Convention over the weekend.
Youngkin’s political action committee, Spirit of Virginia, has also brought in eye-popping fundraising totals. It raised $2.64 million in the first six months of Youngkin’s term — more than double what his three immediate predecessors raised during the same time period.
Asked on Wednesday if he could rule out a presidential bid before his term as governor ends, Youngkin chuckled.
“I’m always incredibly humbled when people ask me this question. Listen, I have a giant job that I’m doing and I’m very, very happy to be doing it,” Youngkin said. “I’m focusing on Virginia. I am so honored to be focusing on Virginia.”
When 8News asked again if that means Youngkin is closing the door on 2024, a spokesperson declined to comment further.
When asked if he was open to considering running for president during an appearance on CBS’s “Face the Nation” on Sunday with his family, Youngkin said, “That’s not a decision that we have even begun to undertake.”
Youngkin attributed the interest in a possible presidential bid to his upset win in what some had written off as a blue state, as well as early successes on some of his core campaign promises.
“We have gotten virtually all of it out of the box moving and I just think that’s something new to politics,” Youngkin said.
Dr. Larry Sabato, director of University of Virginia’s Center for Politics, isn’t quite convinced yet that Youngkin is seeking the White House.
“I’ll believe that Youngkin is really running when I see him going to Iowa and New Hampshire and other key early states. Nebraska doesn’t count. It’s a lovely state but it’s not exactly a force in presidential elections,” Sabato said.
If Youngkin does run, Sabato said that would be unusual.
In Virginia, governors can’t serve back-to-back terms. Sabato said Youngkin would be the second chief executive in state history to seek the presidency while in office, behind former Governor Doug Wilder.
“That made him rather unpopular and Wilder himself called it the biggest mistake he made as governor so it seems a little rash and a little rushed,” Sabato said.
That’s especially true for a political newcomer who could face a crowded, more experienced Republican field, according to Sabato.
However, Sabato said history shows anyone can come out on top in a Republican Primary. He said Youngkin may appeal to GOP voters looking for an alternative to former President Donald Trump.
Asked if he’s committed to supporting Trump if he decides to run again, Youngkin didn’t directly respond.
“Everyone loves to live in the world of hypotheticals. I right now, I am very, very focused on making sure that Virginia delivers on the objectives we set,” Youngkin said. “The world that I live in is a world of reality today, and that’s where I will continue to spend my time.”
That hypothethical is looking more likely.
The Washington Post reported on Thursday that Trump is eyeing a campaign announcement in September, presumably an attempt to clear the field of other presidential hopefuls.
Sabato said he doesn’t expect Youngkin to formalize a possible presidential bid until after midterm elections this fall. He said the governor’s balancing act when it comes to Trump is nothing new.
“He has played ‘tip toe through the tulips’ around Trump from the beginning,” Sabato said. “He doesn’t seem especially bold in criticizing Trump or running flat-out against him.”