With over $6 million in the bank for the Spirit of Virginia PAC, Governor Glenn Youngkin and his supporters are investing substantial funds in typically quiet local elections to support the Republicans’ efforts to maintain control of the Virginia House of Delegates and potentially regain the Senate. Republicans currently have a 52-to-48 majority in the lower chamber in Virginia and are trailing by three seats in the 40-member state senate.
His significant funding for the local elections has Democrats concerned. The Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee, the primary fundraising entity for Democrats in state legislative elections, has raised a staggering $16.7 million by the close of the third quarter. This sum surpasses the entirety of their 2021 fundraising efforts, which amounted to $15 million. It’s a significant financial milestone for an organization frequently ignored by the national party and donor communities.
Abhi Rahman, the DLCC’s communications director, said that his organization was aware of the upcoming “Republican flood” but was shocked by the late-game financial boost Youngkin would receive, especially the $2 million contribution from Jeff Yass, a prominent investor in TikTok and a steadfast GOP megadonor. Together with fellow GOP financier Thomas Petterfly, Yass played a pivotal role in providing Youngkin with a substantial $4 million in just 48 hours.
But it’s not just local elections that have Democrats spooked. It’s the emerging possibility that Youngkin might be a late entry into the 2024 Republican presidential nomination pool.
Virginia pollster and political science professor Stephen Farnsworth explained, “Youngkin is getting a lot of money for Virginia elections this fall because he’s dangling the possibility of a presidential run before would-be donors.” Farnsworth further noted that Youngkin’s political fate might hinge on these elections, which frequently see winners determined by mere hundreds of votes in a handful of districts.
But Youngkin’s political fortunes won’t be solely determined by the financial support he garners from megadonors. These elections are also a reflection of Youngkin himself, as he actively participated in the Virginia GOP primaries this cycle. In a testament to the governor’s popularity, all ten of the candidates he backed in both chambers emerged victorious in their respective races.
Youngkin is not confirming or denying any plans for a 2024 presidential run and seems to be enjoying the rumors that he might emerge as a potential challenger to shake Donald Trump’s hold on the GOP nomination.
But rumors persist that Youngkin, who had initially ruled out a 2024 presidential bid, is now reconsidering his decision as concerns grow over Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ candidacy and Trump appears poised to secure the nomination. While discussions on a potential Youngkin presidential run are underway, any announcement is likely to come after the high-stakes state legislative races in Virginia in November. Youngkin’s political future will be evaluated based on the outcomes of these races. While 2024 remains a possibility, some suggest 2028 could be the true goal for his presidential ambitions.
A winning strategy for Youngkin would involve Republican majorities in Virginia next year, a successful legislative track record of conservative governance, and a rejection of Trump’s influence at the national level during the 2024 presidential election. Farnsworth suggested that in such a scenario, GOP voters might recognize the merits of a more moderate approach over what some see as Trump’s more extreme political style.
Democrats in Virginia understand that a Youngkin sweep in their state could boost his national standings and make Virginia a more competitive state in presidential elections. And that’s before he even announces a White House bid for 2024.
But to ensure a Republican victory in his state and earn a spot as a contender in the GOP presidential arena, Youngkin will need to address the persistent abortion issue that continues to energize voters.
Youngkin won his gubernatorial race in 2021, prior to the Supreme Court’s overturning of federal abortion rights protections. Polls reveal that 54 percent of Virginia independents feel that the Dobbs decision will significantly influence their vote in the upcoming election. As a result, Spirit of Virginia released ads on local broadcast networks to support his party’s 15-week ban on abortion as a “common sense” approach to the divisive issue.
The Virginia elections will be pivotal, as Youngkin treads a fine line between state governance and his possible future presidential aspirations. But so far, Youngkin is infuriating Democrats by refusing to reveal his future political intentions. Will he or won’t he? Only Youngkin knows, and he’s not telling.