Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin, widely viewed as a potential 2024 GOP presidential candidate, on Monday ruled out launching a bid for the White House this year.
During an appearance at the Milken Institute’s Global Conference in Beverly Hills, Youngkin simply answered “no” when asked if he planned to join a race in which former President Trump, who had endorsed Youngkin for governor, leads the GOP field of candidates challenging President Biden.
“I’m going to be working in Virginia this year,” Youngkin said, adding that he would be focused on his state’s legislative elections in November. “I have a House that’s controlled by Republicans and a Senate that’s controlled by Democrats. I want to hold our House and flip our Senate.”
Youngkin, who could be a potential vice presidential pick or 2028 presidential candidate, hours later spoke at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum in Simi Valley. Echoing Reagan’s optimism, Youngkin glossed over his embrace of the culture wars — such as rolling back rights for transgender students and banning the teaching of critical race theory as he spoke about his 2021 victory bucking the Democratic trend in his state, which had elected Democrats for governor and U.S. Senate since 2006.
“Virginians made a different choice,” he told about 360 people who paid $65 to hear him speak, saying that voters chose to back parents’ rights, education standards, law enforcement and business deregulation. “Conservative policies win because they are grounded in timeless truths, and in common sense. And more importantly, common-sense policies work. Virginia is the test case, proof positive — a state that can lurch left and was falling behind, made a choice and is now winning.”
The appearance by Youngkin, 56, was part of the library’s “Time for Choosing” speaker series, which is focused on the future of the Republican Party. It was launched in 2021 after Republicans lost the White House and the Senate majority and a mob of supporters of former President Trump stormed the U.S. Capitol in hopes of stopping the certification of the 2020 election.
The library has long been a popular stop for GOP candidates, but it’s particularly important for White House hopefuls this election cycle because California is holding its 2024 primary early and has the most delegates of any state in the nation.
It will be the site of the second Republican presidential primary debate later this year, but Trump seemed to imply on social media that he may not participate in it because Fred Ryan, the chairman of the library, is publisher of the Washington Post. “President Ronald Reagan would not approve!” Trump wrote on Truth Social.
Ryan served as Reagan’s chief of staff. Trump took part in a debate at the library in 2015.
Youngkin, a wealthy private equity executive who was elected governor in 2021, did not mention Trump by name during his nearly half-hour speech. But his remarks about the future of the GOP appeared to be an implicit criticism of the former president.
“We don’t have to rely on who yells the loudest to win. You see, we can win with results. And by communicating a message of hope,” Youngkin said. “The Republican Party is a big tent, and we’re filling it, which we do through addition and multiplication, not through subtraction and division.”
Youngkin embraced Trump’s endorsement as he sought the GOP gubernatorial nomination in 2021, but once he received it he held the former president at arm’s length as he courted moderate suburban voters before the general election.
His handling of the former president, a campaign focus on parents’ rights in schools and an affable, moderate demeanor perhaps best symbolized by his ever-present casual vest helped the political novice beat former Gov. Terry McAuliffe, the former chair of the Democratic National Committee and a longtime confidant of former President Clinton and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Still, Youngkin has embraced many of Trump’s policies and those of the most conservative wing of the GOP. Since taking office, he has rolled back rights for transgender students, banned the teaching of critical race theory and sought to limit abortion access. He has associated with election deniers.
“Glenn Youngkin can’t name a single policy difference between himself and Trump — and he’s got the extreme record to prove it,” said Rhyan Lake, a spokesperson for the Democratic National Committee.
Much of Youngkin’s remarks contrasted the policies of states led by Republicans against those run by Democrats. The sole time he specifically mentioned California was about the state’s decision to halt sales of new gas-powered cars by 2035. He has tried to uncouple his state’s adherence to California emissions standards, arguing that the electric vehicle industry is dominated by companies linked to the Chinese Communist Party.
“It’s also why Virginians should reject our current law that California should write our vehicle laws,” he said. “This policy not only attacks our personal freedoms but it plays into the hands of the CCP.”