Dem 51
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GOP 49
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Keep an Eye on Youngkin

A lot of big Republican donors are wetting their pants these days. They don't believe Donald Trump can beat Joe Biden and the Great White Hope—DeSantis—is turning out to be a mirage. No one else currently in the race has a prayer—well, OK, Mike Pence and Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC) have lots of prayers, just no chance to win the nomination. So increasingly many Republican donors and others are starting to think about candidates not currently in the race.

One favorite is Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R-VA). He looks good in a fleece and offers up Trumpism so sugar-coated that you can't tell it is Trumpism until you have bitten all the way through it and gotten to the core. The immediate problem is that he is currently consumed with winning the Virginia General Assembly in Nov. 2023 so he can ram his program through. The state Senate is currently 22 Democrats and 18 Republicans. The House of Delegates is 51 Republicans, 46 Democrats, and 3 vacancies. He desperately wants to hold the House and flip the Senate. Since he can't get any legislation through, he is campaigning more-or-less full time and will continue to do so until this year's election.

If the Democrats hang onto either chamber, he will lose a lot of his luster, but if he holds the House and flips the Senate, he will be available to jump into the presidential race at the last minute, especially since he is already a lame duck in Virginia. Of course, his being available, being very wealthy, and having a sunny disposition does not mean he could roll over Donald Trump easily, even if the big donors desperately want him to try. Youngkin is probably smart enough to realize that the chances of beating Trump are low, and if he is crushed by Trump, his chances of beating Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA) in 2026 will go down greatly. Consequently, he may well decide to resist all the pressure and focus on trying to govern (especially if Republicans control the General Assembly) and prepare for his 2026 Senate race.

Some Democrats are worried that the DNC doesn't see the danger in Youngkin getting a majority in both chambers of the Virginia legislature and then becoming a much smoother version of Ron DeSantis, one who definitely can connect with voters, especially suburban women. These Democrats, who include Warner and fellow Virginia Democrat Sen. Tim Kaine, want more money directed to vulnerable Virginia state senators to deny Youngkin a majority in the Senate. They keep calling Joe Biden's top aides to try to convince them there is a fire to put out in Virginia.

Although it is a bit of a long shot, if Trump is the GOP nominee and decides he doesn't need a woman on the ticket, he might pick Youngkin as his running mate and the governor might accept. He's plenty Trumpy, but he is less grating than, say, pretend-Arizona-governor Kari Lake. The role of veep candidate would introduce him nationally and set him up for a 2028 presidential run and it certainly wouldn't hurt him if he decided to run for the Senate in 2026 as a first step.

Youngkin is certainly someone to watch. He is Trumpy enough for the base but is able to hide it well enough to connect with suburban women and tries hard not to antagonize any voters. There aren't many other Republicans like him. He could well have a big future in the post-Trump Republican Party. Of course, a lot of people said that about DeSantis last year, but when he got under the bright spotlight, he wilted. (V)

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