Glenn Youngkin’s Turn from Trump Supporters May Hamper His Political Ambitions Outside of Virginia

Virginia Republicans are happy again, having broken the Democratic trifecta in Richmond and raising expectations that the 2022 midterm elections will see them gain even more electoral ground.

The atmosphere is so heady that, as Richmond Morning News host John Reid told me, some of the attendees at last weekend’s GOP confab in Hot Springs were talking up the possibility that Virginia Gov.-elect Glenn Youngkin (R) should run for president.

That’s not going to happen. For all the warm feelings and gratitude Republicans feel for Youngkin having led a sweep of the state’s top three offices, he still has to assume office and get down to the difficult job of governing.

And it will be difficult. More so than Youngkin’s troubled stint at the top of the Carlyle Group.

About that: Youngkin’s initial public image was that of a successful corporate chieftain who willingly left the C-Suite to answer the call to public service.

It makes a good story, but it wasn’t entirely true. Yes, Youngkin long wanted to run for office. But it was hardly a spur-of-the-moment decision. In July 2020, Bloomberg’s Heather Perlberg reported:

Before rising to CEO, [Youngkin] had explored a jump to politics, spending months meeting with Virginia business leaders and political advisers. More recently, as relations with [co-CEO Kewsong] Lee grew strained, Youngkin confided in colleagues he might step down at the end of [2020]. Ultimately, he didn’t wait.

After Youngkin won the Republican gubernatorial nomination, more reporting appeared about his exit from Carlyle. In August, Perlberg and Bloomberg colleague Tom Maloney reported:

[Youngkin] retired after a power struggle that left him in charge of more modest businesses. Current and former employees, asking not to be identified discussing internal business, describe a checkered record at odds with his campaign’s portrayal./blockquote>

That’s not a great narrative to carry into a governor’s race that drew national attention.

Credit, then, to Youngkin’s organization, which came up with a new image: a red-vested everyman who sounded a bit like the country club Republicans of old. You know, the kind who used to win elections in Virginia’s suburbs as recently as 2017.

Yes, Youngkin had to bow to the MAGA crowd during the nomination contest and the general election. But it appears that rather than become captive to this wing of the party — which would have cost him the election — Youngkin has been very slowly distancing himself from it, and the suburban dad, old-style Republican persona appears to be gaining steam (and not just in the casual dress inaugural party scheduled for next month).

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