When Glenn Youngkin was elected governor of Virginia in 2021 he was quickly hailed as the face of a post-Trump Republican Party.

He was MAGA-friendly enough to keep fans of the former president on side but, with his red sweater vests and private equity background, might also appeal to independents.

So it is no surprise that his name is invoked every few weeks as a potential late entrant to the Republican primary race, a man who could do what Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is failing to do and stop Donald Trump running away with the nomination.  

Youngkin’s name surfaced again last week in the aftermath of a chaotic Republican debate that only further muddied the waters of the race and left some donors in despair.

‘The second debate was kind of a s***show,’ said one Republican donor. He has given to Youngkin in the past and is now working the phones to persuade the Virginia governor to jump in.

Could Gov. Glenn Youngkin save the Republican Party from itself in 2024? A group of donors is pushing for the Virginia governor to get into the race in a last  attempt to stop Donald Trump

Could Gov. Glenn Youngkin save the Republican Party from itself in 2024? A group of donors is pushing for the Virginia governor to get into the race in a last  attempt to stop Donald Trump

Could Gov. Glenn Youngkin save the Republican Party from itself in 2024? A group of donors is pushing for the Virginia governor to get into the race in a last  attempt to stop Donald Trump

Former US President and 2024 presidential hopeful Donald Trump speaks at Drake Enterprises, an automotive parts manufacturer and supplier, in Clinton, Michigan

Former US President and 2024 presidential hopeful Donald Trump speaks at Drake Enterprises, an automotive parts manufacturer and supplier, in Clinton, Michigan

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis speaks during the second Republican presidential primary debate at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis speaks during the second Republican presidential primary debate at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California

Gov Ron DeSantis has failed to eat into Trump’s dominance in the 2024 primary race

‘There needs to be an injection of fresh blood into the race with new ideas and more of a galvanizing vision of what the Republican Party represents and how it should proceed. And that, quite frankly, is lacking,’ he said.

Speculation will only intensify later this month when donors assemble for a ‘Red Vest Retreat’ at a Virginia Beach hotel amid reports that some will press Youngkin to take the plunge.

The checks are ready to go, said the donor adding: ‘In 24 hours he could raise millions.’

Billionaire Ken Griffin is one of the donors who has remained on the sidelines so far. Others have made clear they are disillusioned with the choice on offer and would weigh in behind Youngkin if he decides to run.

For his part, Youngkin has repeatedly insisted that his focus is state elections next month – a response that, by accident or design, has never shut down the rumors. 

‘He appears to be leaving the door open,’ Thomas Peterffy, who has donated $3 million this year to Youngkin’s campaign organization, told the Washington Post. 

‘And if Republicans win in Virginia, maybe we can talk him into it. He obviously wants to see what emerges, what the state of play is.’

Youngkin would face huge hurdles. By the time the Virginia elections are done some of the key dates for filing in early states for the 2024 presidential race will have passed.

And almost all the key Republican strategists and pollsters have already been snapped up by other campaigns.

Born in Richmond and raised in Virginia Beach, Youngkin is a homegrown Virginian from humble beginnings, reads his own bio. He is pictured here with wife Suzanne and four children

Born in Richmond and raised in Virginia Beach, Youngkin is a homegrown Virginian from humble beginnings, reads his own bio. He is pictured here with wife Suzanne and four children

Born in Richmond and raised in Virginia Beach, Youngkin is a homegrown Virginian from humble beginnings, reads his own bio. He is pictured here with wife Suzanne and four children

He won a scholarship to Rice University in Houston, where his height was listed as six foot, seven inches. Today he lists his height at a more modest six foot, six inches

He won a scholarship to Rice University in Houston, where his height was listed as six foot, seven inches. Today he lists his height at a more modest six foot, six inches

He won a scholarship to Rice University in Houston, where his height was listed as six foot, seven inches. Today he lists his height at a more modest six foot, six inches

Our second debate poll showed that Republican viewers thought that Trump was the winner - even though he didn't attend, in a sign that his rivals are simply failing to catch fire

Our second debate poll showed that Republican viewers thought that Trump was the winner - even though he didn't attend, in a sign that his rivals are simply failing to catch fire

Our second debate poll showed that Republican viewers thought that Trump was the winner – even though he didn’t attend, in a sign that his rivals are simply failing to catch fire 

Yet the speculation simply won’t die

Youngkin, 56, was catapulted to national prominence in November 2021. A political neophyte, he had somehow found a way to win in a state that Joe Biden carried by 10 points just a year earlier. 

He was assisted by a personal fortune Forbes estimates at $440 million, helping pay for top Republican brains and wall-to-wall TV advertising. 

The money came from a career in private equity. After winning a basketball scholarship to Rice University in Houston, he went on to Harvard Business School, and followed the well-trodden path of athletes from elite private college who enter the world of finance.

After starting at the consulting giant McKinsey and Company, he joined the Carlyle Group, a private equity firm. He rose through the ranks, leading the company’s initial public offering, and becoming co-chief executive in 2018.

His 25-year finance career came to an end in 2020 when he lost a power struggle.

A year later, his victory in Virginia was dissected as a blueprint for future Republican campaigns.

His strategy was a mix of the pragmatic and the idealistic. 

He demanded ‘election integrity,’ for example, without repeating Trump’s wild claims about voter fraud. And during a debate with his Democratic opponent Terry McAuliffe he said the results of the 2020 election were ‘certifiably fair.’ 

Youngkin was in demand during elections last year when candidates for governor around the country hoped some of his stardust would rub off on their campaigns. He is seen here with New York candidate Lee Zeldin, after presenting him with one of his red vests

Youngkin was in demand during elections last year when candidates for governor around the country hoped some of his stardust would rub off on their campaigns. He is seen here with New York candidate Lee Zeldin, after presenting him with one of his red vests

Youngkin was in demand during elections last year when candidates for governor around the country hoped some of his stardust would rub off on their campaigns. He is seen here with New York candidate Lee Zeldin, after presenting him with one of his red vests

In fact he rarely mentioned Trump’s name.

He leant hard into parental rights, tapping into anger at public school closures during the pandemic and a growing sense among parents that classwork was being skewed by liberal ideology. 

His best-known manifesto promise was to ban Critical Race Theory on day one, which he made good with ‘executive order number one’.

Democratic opponents insist C.R.T. is an academic framework with little practical application in schools.

‘He made parental rights one of his signature issues and after he won in 2021 that caught the attention of a lot of Republicans,’ said Miles Coleman, associate editor of Sabato’s Crystal Ball, the University of Virginia Center for Politics’ newsletter. 

‘I started to see governors like [Brian] Kemp in Georgia and DeSantis start to push parental rights legislation.’

At the start of this year, it made him one of the names in the frame for 2024.

But he rebuffed pleas from his inner circle to run. 

‘He did not see how he could do that and do his day job and keep his family happy and win elections in November all at once, so this just wasn’t his time,’ said one. 

As months ticked by and other candidates got in, then the space for Youngkin diminished.

Youngkin and his wife pray before walking onstage for a campaign rally at the the Inn at Vint Hill on October 29, 2021 in Warrenton during his successful campaign

Youngkin and his wife pray before walking onstage for a campaign rally at the the Inn at Vint Hill on October 29, 2021 in Warrenton during his successful campaign

Youngkin and his wife pray before walking onstage for a campaign rally at the the Inn at Vint Hill on October 29, 2021 in Warrenton during his successful campaign

‘I think that if Gov Youngkin had gotten in in May or June, I think we could have kept a lot of people out,’ said the insider. ‘And he could have consolidated a lane. And maybe in that world, it would have happened.’

But fast forward six months and two fractious debates when none of the candidates set the stage alight, and as Trump’s grip on the race only tightened, then Youngkin’s name is doing the rounds again among Republicans who want a candidate with a more unifying message.

‘Would I be excited to see him enter the race?’ said Michael Ortner, who donated $50,000 to Youngkin’s politicial action committee in March. ‘You know, a few months ago, I would have said no, just focus on Virginia. 

‘But after watching two debates, and coming away from both debates with no excitement about any of the candidates, I’m now thinking this could be the right move.’

Youngkin would have powerful backers. He has met twice with Rupert Murdoch in what an informed source were ‘get to know you’ sessions, although other reports suggest the media mogul has urged the Virginia governor to get in.

Yet it would be an uphill challenge — if not downright impossible.

Trump’s average in primary polls is more than 50 percent, putting his lead well above 30 points. 

‘The Youngkin candidacy is a story that that the Trump campaign likes to put about because it suggests the other candidates are falling apart,’ said a staffer with another campaign dismissing the idea as a ploy to sow confusion.

It also could get in the way of any effort to consolidate the anti-Trump vote around the candidacies of Nikki Haley or Tim Scott.

And Youngkin is running out of time. He has promised that his focus is on turning Virginia fully red in elections on November 7. If he waits until then to get into the 2024 race he will have missed filing dates for Nevada and South Carolina, two crucial early states in the nomination process.

Nevada’s deadline is October 15, days before Youngkin’s Red Vest Retreat for donors.

A bad-tempered second Republican debate has some donors looking again for a new candidate to liven up the race and bring a stronger challenge to Trump

A bad-tempered second Republican debate has some donors looking again for a new candidate to liven up the race and bring a stronger challenge to Trump

A bad-tempered second Republican debate has some donors looking again for a new candidate to liven up the race and bring a stronger challenge to Trump

But key figures in Youngkin's rise have been snapped up by other campaigns. Youngkin is seen here with strategist Jeff Roe, who is now working with a Super Pac aligned with DeSantis

But key figures in Youngkin's rise have been snapped up by other campaigns. Youngkin is seen here with strategist Jeff Roe, who is now working with a Super Pac aligned with DeSantis

But key figures in Youngkin’s rise have been snapped up by other campaigns. Youngkin is seen here with strategist Jeff Roe, who is now working with a Super Pac aligned with DeSantis

‘How can you launch a campaign and not compete in two of the first four?’ asked the Youngkin insider ‘He’s a great candidate for South Carolina. He is a faith candidate. He would dominate in South Carolina.’

Then there is the fact that his victory in Virginia was powered by strategist Jeff Roe and his Axiom Strategies Group.

This time around Roe is working with Never Back Down, the DeSantis-aligned campaign organization.

‘If you want to be a serious contender you can’t just launch a campaign kind of willy nilly,’ said the analyst Coleman.

‘Look at stuff like his pollster in 2021, a firm called WPA Intelligence. Those guys have already signed up on the DeSantis side. There’s only a finite pool of talent that you can kind of pull from.’

But that doesn’t mean the chatter will go away.

Bob Hugin, who this year donated $100,000 to Youngkin’s political action committee in Virginia, said: ‘I think people are very much looking for somebody.

‘I do think Governor Younkin could raise a very significant amount of money in a short period of time, should he decide to announce.’

Hugin’s role as chairman of the New Jersey state party means he is not endorsing anyone in the primaries. But he sees the appeal.

‘Putting him or anyone else aside, I think people want someone who will solve the country’s problems in a way that brings people together and doesn’t divide them,’ he said. 

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