Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin appeared to rule out the possibility that he will throw himself into the Republican presidential primary field, instead pledging to work on improving his state.
“I’m going to be working in Virginia this year,” Youngkin said when asked about his presidential ambitions during an interview at the Milken Institute in Los Angeles with Wall Street Journal editor Gerard Baker.
Youngkin added that his focus will be on assisting Republican candidates in winning legislative elections in Virginia, where the state’s Senate is currently controlled by Democrats and the House of Delegates by Republicans.
I want to hold our House, and I’d like to flip our Senate. And I think we’re doing a really good job in Virginia, and I think this is a chance to bring that to voters. I haven’t written a book, and I’m not in Iowa. I’m spending time representing Virginians this year.
I believe what we’re demonstrating is, first of all, we can do this differently, and we can bring common sense solutions to bear on some of these perennially challenging problems. And those common sense solutions work.
However, Youngkin did stop short of definitively ruling out a presidential bid when pressed on the matter.
“So in the words of LBJ, you will not seek and, if nominated, you will not serve and accept the Republican nomination for president of the United States?” Baker asked, a reference to President Lyndon B. Johnson’s 1968 speech confirming that he would not run for the office again.
“We’ll leave that one to LBJ,” Youngkin replied.
Meanwhile, a Youngkin aide told NBC News that his responses were specifically focused on the year 2023, indicating that he could announce his candidacy as late as early 2024.
“This was not an announcement or a definite decline,” the aide told the outlet.
Youngkin rose to prominence in 2021 after scoring a significant upset by winning the Virginia governorship, defeating former Democratic Governor Terry McAuliffe. He recently embarked on an overseas tour, sparking speculation he may be eyeing up a run for the presidency.
During his trip, Youngkin traveled to the Taiwanese capital of Taipei where he met with President Tsai Ing-wen, and also visited South Korea and Japan. Similarly, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis met with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida in Tokyo. While both governors described their trips as trade missions, many observers viewed them as attempts by potential candidates to bolster their foreign policy credentials.
Part of Youngkin’s appeal stems from his impressive approval rating for a state that typically leans Democrat. According to a Mason-Dixon survey carried out in March, around 56 percent of Virginians approve of Youngkin, with just 31 percent disapproving of his leadership. This 25-point gap marks Youngkin’s highest approval rating since he took office in early 2022.
The state of Virginia has voted for every Democratic presidential candidate since Barack Obama in 2008, although new polls show Biden and the party at large may be losing ground. Biden’s approval rating in the Mason-Dixon survey was only 45 percent, with 52 percent disapproving. A separate survey by Christopher Newport indicated 73 percent of Virginians also believe the country is heading in the wrong direction.