Not the time for a Virginia dark horse, say political observers

Glenn Youngkin
Gov. Glenn Youngkin. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

Not the time for a Virginia dark horse, say political observers

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(The Center Square) — As November’s General Assembly election nears and state filing deadlines for the 2024 presidential election rapidly approach, talk of Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin entering the race has only intensified.

Those who have followed Youngkin’s career know that some saw presidential potential in him even before he was elected governor. While he has never said yes to a presidential bid, the closest he has come to saying no are statements that he’ll be focused on helping his party compete through the November election.

And that’s where his focus should stay, according to Stephen Farnsworth, professor of political science and international affairs at the University of Mary Washington – for more reasons than one.

“I don’t know that there’s a compelling message Youngkin can offer that more experienced politicians haven’t offered so far,” Farnsworth told The Center Square. “The only scenario that would be appealing, not only for Youngkin but for the others in the race, is if Trump’s not a candidate, and Trump shows no signs of walking away from his campaign.”

According to political observers like Farnsworth, even if Trump did drop out, the things Youngkin would likely need to make himself a competitive presidential candidate haven’t happened yet.

Youngkin’s gubernatorial victory in 2021 shocked many long-time students of Virginia politics, as Biden beat Trump in the commonwealth by over 10% in 2020, and the state seemed firmly blue. But as notable as his win may have been, many consider the upcoming general election a test of Youngkin’s political promise, watching to see if he has enough influence in the commonwealth for Republicans to retain control of the House and flip the Senate in the general election.

And because of the Democratic control of the state Senate, Youngkin doesn’t currently have a long list of legislative accomplishments to brandish beside the other Republican candidates – and he likely won’t unless he’s able to secure a trifecta in November.

“During his first two years as governor, he’s really been stymied by the lack of those legislative partisan majorities. Governors only have those four years in Virginia, so it’s really important for governors to get something done quickly,” Farnsworth said.

Joe Szymanski of the news site Elections Daily echoed Farnsworth’s thoughts.

“I think the governor should be waiting,” Szymanski told The Center Square. “I just don’t think he would have much of a record to run on except for the fact that he won in Virginia, and I don’t think that’s enough yet for somebody to run for president.”

Szymanski also thinks it would be near impossible for Youngkin to make the filing deadlines to get on the primary ballots for important early-voting states like New Hampshire, Iowa and South Carolina.

While neither Farnsworth nor Szymanski thinks a 2024 presidential bid would be a wise decision for the governor, there’s a lot of value in being considered for one, according to Farnsworth.

“I think this speaks to Youngkin’s savvy. He gets a lot more out of being talked about as a candidate than he would ever get from being a candidate against Trump in 2024,” Farnsworth said.

Farnsworth and Szymanski find a 2028 presidential run for Youngkin much more feasible, with his chances of success being higher if Trump doesn’t win in 2024, according to Farnsworth.

“In many ways, Youngkin in 2028 could be the Bill Clinton of 1992. The Democrats were so tired of losing that they wanted to move in a different direction, and Clinton was that direction.”

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