Please, Governor, Focus on Virginia First

Glenn Youngkin. Photo credit: New York Times

by James A. Bacon

Virginians are still trying to decipher the intentions of Glenn Youngkin in traveling to so many Republican campaign events around the country. The Governor been in office about eight months. He’s barely gotten started in undoing the damage of his predecessor’s four-year term. He couldn’t really be thinking about running for president, could he? 

There doesn’t seem to be much question in the minds of the national media that he is. Donald Trump remains the odds-on favorite to win the Republican nomination should he desire it even though the metaphorical walls have been “closing in” on him for six years now. If Democrats finally succeed in taking out the former president, then Florida Governor Ron DeSantis seems the most viable alternative. Yet Youngkin’s name is frequently invoked as a possible presidential candidate.

“It’s obvious. Glenn Youngkin, the Republican governor of Virginia, wants to be president,” writes New York Times columnist Jamelle Bouie.

Most of Bouie’s lengthy column is a tiresome rendition of the narrative that the Republican Party and the MAGA movements are extensions of Dixiecrats and segregationists. (New York Times columnists have zero clue about what makes Republicans tick.) But he does cite actual evidence, which has gotten little play here in the Old Dominion, that Youngkin does, in fact, have national political ambitions.

Writes Bouie:

Within months of taking office, Youngkin had already established two political organizations, Spirit of Virginia and America’s Spirit, meant to raise his profile in national Republican politics with donations and assistance to candidates both in his home state and across the country. In July, he met privately with major conservative donors in New York City, underlining the sense that his ambitions run larger than his term in Richmond.

Youngkin, a former private equity executive, is on a tour of the country, speaking and raising money for Republican candidates in key presidential swing states. And as he crisscrosses the United States in support of the Republican Party, Youngkin is neither avoiding Donald Trump nor scorning his acolytes; he’s embracing them.

In Nevada last week, Youngkin stumped for Joe Lombardo, the Trump-backed Republican nominee for governor who acknowledges that President Biden won the election but says he is worried about the “sanctity of the voting system.” In Michigan, Youngkin stumped for Tudor Dixon, the Trump-backed Republican nominee for governor who has repeatedly challenged the integrity of the 2020 presidential election. And later this month, in Arizona, Youngkin will stump for Kari Lake, the Trump-backed Republican nominee for governor who accused Democrats of fraud in the state and says that unlike Gov. Doug Ducey, she “would not have certified” the 2020 election results.

Whether Youngkin agrees with any of this himself is an open question. In the 2021 Virginia Republican primary, he flirted with election denialism but never fully committed. What matters, for our purposes, is that Youngkin believes he needs to cater to and actually support election questioners and deniers to have a shot at leading the Republican Party.

Setting aside his uncharitable interpretation of Youngkin’s views on election integrity, Bouie does make a valid point about his political ambitions.

I support most of Youngkin’s agenda for Virginia, but I am distressed to see his attention wander so far afield. He has yet to demonstrate that he can help Republicans regain control of the General Assembly. He has yet to show he can push his message through a biased media. And he’s done about all he can do with executive orders and appointments to boards and commissions.

Youngkin needs to be stumping for Republican candidates here in Virginia. He needs to be raising money for conservative causes in the Old Dominion. He needs to be laying the groundwork for legislative reforms in Richmond. In sum, he needs to give it everything he’s got here at home. If his agenda falters here, he will have no credibility as a national change agent… or a presidential candidate.