Politicking at the Presidency 2023

Political observers have talked about Gov. Glenn Youngkin running for president since his gubernatorial victory. A Spirit of Virginia PAC commercial and reported donor meetings have cast doubt on Youngkin’s pledge not to run for the 2024 Republican primary.

On May 18, Youngkin tweeted that “it’s pretty overwhelming to contemplate the future of America” and invoked Ronald Reagan.

The film calls for action against the present administration, a typical presidential campaign feature. Youngkin’s commercial addresses Americans, not Virginia. For months, the governor has said he’s focused on Virginia and this year’s state assembly elections.

“I’m not expecting him to jump in,” says UVA Center for Politics J. Miles Coleman. “Serious candidates don’t just enter a presidential race.”

Coleman notes that Youngkin would be at a disadvantage if he entered the race late, but the forthcoming Virginia legislative elections would make early entry impossible.

Posturing by the President

Coleman expects Youngkin to stay out of the 2024 campaign until former president Donald Trump and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis change. Youngkin’s mixed messaging has advantages.

Coleman thinks Youngkin is given himself a way to stay in the spotlight by not shutting down whether he is in or out. Staying in the headlines helps him build national name recognition for future contests. “2028 seems far away, but in politics… there is always another election.”

Youngkin’s current message positions him for a late race entry if it becomes viable. Coleman believes Youngkin is Republicans’ “roundly palatable guy,” with something for everyone.

Youngkin, who is not a primary contender, has had a major effect on Republican messaging. Many contenders have adopted the Virginia governor’s parental rights and critical race theory platform. Most significantly, DeSantis hired numerous key Youngkin campaign officials for his own presidential candidacy.

Youngkin’s UVA Board of Visitors appointments demonstrate his platform in Charlottesville. The governor undermines progressive ideals like diversity, equity, and inclusion by choosing Bert Ellis. Ellis said UVA is “already diverse” before joining the BOV and criticizing its support of DEI activities.

“If Youngkin… Coleman recalls, “I would obsess over my legislative elections.” If he runs in 2028, he better pray the Republican nominee loses to Biden. If he waits eight years, he’s irrelevant.”

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