May 20, 2024
Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R) was in Washington Wednesday evening to participate in a Q&A with the American Opportunity Alliance, an exclusive group of wealthy Republican donors who provide millions of dollars in crucial funding to the party’s top presidential contenders.

Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R) was in Washington Wednesday evening to participate in a Q&A with the American Opportunity Alliance, an exclusive group of wealthy Republican donors who provide millions of dollars in crucial funding to the party’s top presidential contenders.

The session unfolded amid Youngkin’s carefully choreographed national campaign swing through key battlegrounds to boost Republican prospects in midterm elections and is viewed internally, by the governor and his political team, as a test drive for a potential 2024 White House bid. Youngkin fielded questions on a range of topics, from how he is governing Virginia to his thoughts on a political future beyond Richmond, according to a Republican operative in the room.

This Republican said the response from the roughly 100 in attendance was “beyond good. Everybody was fawning.”

Throughout the evening, Youngkin discussed what he has done to make Virginia’s government operate more efficiently and effectively, explaining to the crowd that he approaches the job from a business perspective. Youngkin focused on public education, the issue that arguably won the governor’s race for him, and talked about what he is doing to deliver on the campaign promises he made on that front.

On his political future, Youngkin did not rule out a White House bid and allowed, the Republican operative said, that he could be called to serve.

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But Youngkin emphasized he was focused on helping Republicans make gains this year and would then turn his attention to restoring the party to its former glory in Virginia. Topping the governor’s list on that front is ensuring a proper GOP succession to his administration in the Old Dominion (the state constitution bars him from running for reelection in 2025).

The American Opportunity Alliance is led by Republican megadonor and Wall Street hedge fund manager Paul Singer and includes among its members prominent titans of business and finance. In that regard, Youngkin was among fellow travelers; the 55-year-old made a fortune as a private equity investor before being elected Virginia governor in November 2021. He defeated Terry McAuliffe (D), a former governor who left office in 2018, 50.6% to 48.7%.

The gathering of well-heeled GOP campaign contributors was no doubt interested in Youngkin because he won a blue state President Joe Biden carried by 10 percentage points just 12 months earlier. The governor’s victory also intrigues Republican donors because it was built on the support of grassroots conservatives in rural Virginia enthralled by former President Donald Trump, in addition to traditional Republicans and swing voters in the suburbs around Richmond and Washington.

This potent one-two punch is driving interest in Youngkin as a potential presidential candidate despite winning just one election and being on the job less than a year. The Republican major donor community is, by and large, desperate to move on from Trump and wary of the other early front-runner, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. Trump is mulling a third White House bid; DeSantis, up for reelection this year, is playing coy about 2024.

Youngkin recently concluded a pair of stops in key 2022 battlegrounds, stumping for populist Republicans aligned with Trump, among them Tudor Dixon and Paul LePage, GOP gubernatorial nominees in Michigan and Maine, respectively. In October, Youngkin heads to swing state Arizona to campaign for Republican gubernatorial nominee and populist Trump acolyte Kari Lake.

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Immediately next up for Youngkin, this month, is a trip to Georgia for incumbent Gov. Brian Kemp (R), a conservative who supports Trump but has the distinction of nonetheless being on the former president’s enemies list. Last week, Youngkin was in Nevada to support Joe Lombardo, the GOP gubernatorial nominee backed by both the Trump and traditional wings of the party.

Meanwhile, Youngkin heads to Austin, Texas, this Friday to sit for an hourlong Texas Tribune Festival interview. By subjecting himself to a media spotlight and voters often skeptical of conservative Republicans like Virginia’s governor, he hopes to showcase a political versatility that Youngkin partisans believe makes him uniquely viable among GOP 2024 contenders.

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