Cometh the Hour — Cometh Youngkin?

It would be nice to see the governor of Virginia step forward, but the shilly-shallying doesn’t become him.

Drew Angerer/Getty Images
Governor Youngkin tours Amazon HQ2 on June 15, 2023 at Arlington, Virginia. Drew Angerer/Getty Images

We don’t mind saying that we would be delighted to see Governor Youngkin enter the fray for the GOP presidential race, speculation about which the Financial Times is fanning. Yet we also don’t mind saying we don’t relish all his shilly-shallying about jumping in the race — “coy,” is how the FT puts it — especially with the election little more than a year away, and a deadline in just weeks for one key primary state, Nevada. 

Even so, a Youngkin candidacy might be just the thing, given the pathology that has overtaken the GOP’s primary deliberations. The party’s leading candidate, in the latest in a series of strident remarks, just insinuated that the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, General Mark Milley, appeared to deserve the death penalty. It all serves to distract from substantive debate on the issues and hands an advantage to the Democrats for 2024.

Part of Mr. Youngkin’s appeal, by contrast, is how he dispatched his Democratic opponent, the Clinton apparatchik Terry McAuliffe, even more easily than the New York City Council jettisoned its statue of Thomas Jefferson. Mr. Youngkin’s win was all the more remarkable for having come in the Commonwealth of Virginia, which has, in no small part due to its influx of federal employees, tilted increasingly Democratic of late.

Mr. Youngkin’s win was seen as “a template for other Republicans,” as NPR put it, for “channeling conservative outrage over public education.” In this regard Mr. McAuliffe, who campaigned alongside teachers union chief Randi Weingarten, did Mr. Youngkin a favor by arguing in a debate against parental input in education. “I don’t think parents should be telling schools what they should teach,” he said. What planet has he been on? 

Mr. McAuliffe’s gaffe followed months of contention between parents and school boards, which are often under the thumb of the teachers unions. One father was arrested for protesting a school board’s transgender bathroom policies after his daughter was attacked in the girls’ restroom by a boy reportedly wearing a skirt. Just weeks before the election, Attorney General Garland ordered the FBI to help monitor parental protests against school boards.

It helped Mr. Youngkin, too, that he walked a fine line with regard to President Trump. In a balancing act reminiscent of Phillipe Petit’s walk between the Twin Towers, Mr. Youngkin adroitly managed to avoid offending the 45th president, even while piping up to defend the accuracy of the 2020 election results and while also campaigning on a platform moderate enough to prevent alienating the state’s independent and centrist voters.

If it was a “delicate GOP dance,” as the AP put it, Fred Astaire couldn’t have done better. It would be nice to see Mr. Youngkin try to replicate that on a national scale, particularly given the troubles Governor DeSantis has encountered. By opting to run against his one-time endorser and sponsor, Mr. Trump, the Sunshine State governor appears to have estranged himself from the former president’s biggest fans — a key primary constituency.

Mr. DeSantis is hovering at around 13 percent support in polls of Republican primary voters, according to FiveThirtyEight, raising questions about the future of his candidacy. Could Mr. Youngkin break through where Mr. DeSantis has not? The two were both lofted to national prominence during the Covid pandemic, a time of frustration over school policies and government overreach. Both stress in their governance culture war grievances that may not resonate in 2024. 

Yet Mr. Youngkin has won over Virginians with what the FT calls “mild manners” and what he calls “common sense conservative governance.” Oil mogul Harold Hamm urges him to run, the FT says, reckoning it’s “a tremendous thing, getting elected in a purple state, and he’s very popular.” Mr. Hamm even asked Mr. Trump to act as a “kingmaker,” anoint a successor, and avoid GOP “chaos.” The front-runner’s response? Mr. Hamm says: “He wasn’t happy.”

The New York Sun

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