Many Republicans are trying to figure out just how Glenn Youngkin’s confident, yet non-offensive, demeanor on the campaign trail translates to the party’s efforts to recapture the White House.
Youngkin gained ground in the suburbs (that previous President Trump lost) without alienating rural conservative core supporters. Republicans hope to emulate the governor-elect’s victory in next year’s midterm elections and subsequently in the 2024 presidential race.
To accomplish this, Republicans require a nominee who can overcome a primary and rally the GOP alliance in a national election. “I feel it was more about his character,” a Republican insider said.
“Youngkin resembled no Trump. My expenditure report approver was like him. That’s the first step. Terry McAuliffe’s accusation that Youngkin was the same as Trump “stinks.”
Youngkin Campaign Was Brilliant, to Say the Least
Youngkin, 54, a seasoned venture capital entrepreneur, defeated McAuliffe, 64. A year ago, President Biden triumphed by more than ten points in a state that hadn’t chosen a Republican governor since 2009. Youngkin’s victory has two principles.
He appealed to conservative Republicans and floated voters who disliked Trump and backed Biden in Virginia last year. Youngkin tapped into their concerns about the economy and their dissatisfaction with public schools to get their support.
Crucially, Youngkin enlisted the help of Republicans who adored the 45th president. They overwhelmingly voted for him. According to CNN exit polls, Youngkin received 97% of the GOP support, 54% of Independents, 93% of conservatives, and 40% of centrists.
The governor-elect carried the suburbs with 53% of the vote and small towns and rural areas with 63%. White voters with college educations shifted away from the GOP in the Trump era, but Youngkin got near to splitting their support of McAuliffe, earning 47%.
2021 Virginia gubernatorial election:
Gleen Youngkin: 49.8%
Terry McAuliffe: 48.6%
2021 New Jersey gubernatorial election:
Phil Murphy: 51.5%
Jack Ciattarelli: 46.4%
— XarTario 🏳️ !Surrendered! 🏳️ (@XarTario) November 2, 2021
However, Trump’s rural supporters turned up in droves, giving the governor-elect 76% of their votes. Republican analyst Jim Dornan described Youngkin’s Trump-related feat as “miraculous.”
“Can that approach be repeated in 2024? Possibly.” If Trump competes in 2024, the Youngkin model will be irrelevant.
Like in 2016, the contentious former president is unwilling to alter his aggressive attitude. People liked Trump then and now because he portrayed himself as “a warrior” and assured GOP primary voters he would battle for them – against Democrats and Republicans, politicians and the media, and even strangers.
The Strategy Will Only Be Effective with the Right Candidate
People need help and Democrats refuse to give it. That pushes desperate people towards people like Trump and that's why Democrats are gonna get wiped out in the midterms and 2024.
— Eddie (@SoSocialism) November 3, 2021
If Trump decides not to run, Youngkin’s “happy fighter” strategy looks more realistic for the 2024 presidential election. A few of the Republicans noted as prospective presidential candidates appear to be a better fit for this tactic than others.
Some include Arizona Governor Doug Ducey, former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, Maryland Governor Larry Hogan, former Vice President Mike Pence, and South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott.
“Intriguingly, I believe it may be Pence,” said a Republican analyst based in the Midwest, situated near the vice president’s native state of Indiana.
“He is better placed to articulate what people open to a right-of-center candidate say they want: somebody who will do what Trump did on legislation, without the destructive rhetoric.”
The Youngkin model has yet to be tested in the setting of a presidential election campaign.