With Donald Trump continuing to dominate the 2024 Republican primary field, some Republicans are praying a new savior will rise from these streets.
This week’s “savior” is Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin.
In August, then-Fox News and News Corp. boss Rupert Murdoch was encouraging him to run. But in the wake of another sad GOP primary debate, “fantasy talk of an audacious, break-the-glass moment… has morphed into not-so-quiet consideration,” writes CBS News’ Robert Costa.
Desperate non-Trumpy Republican donors and activists haven’t reached the acceptance phase of Trump’s inevitable nomination (although they have accepted the fact that nobody currently in the GOP field can beat him). Instead, they have entered the deus ex machina stage.
This sort of denial seems to happen every four years.
In September 2003, Gen. Wesley Clark entered the Democratic primary after months of fanfare. As The New Yorker noted, “Clark was what Bill Clinton had reportedly declared him to be—the only Democrat besides Hillary Clinton who qualified as a true political ‘star.’”
After being wooed by a “Draft Clark” movement, his star fell precipitously. He dropped out of the race before Valentine’s Day in 2004.
In September 2007, actor and former U.S. Sen. Fred Thompson entered the GOP presidential primary after months of flirtation. His candidacy didn’t survive January 2008.
“…there are some major logistical challenges awaiting Youngkin. But even if those obstacles were not in his way, Youngkin would still be crazy to run for president at this late point in the cycle.”
Interestingly, four years after that, something similar almost happened.
Venerable New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd reported that Joe Biden was “talking to friends, family and donors about jumping in” against Hillary Clinton.
Biden, who didn’t run, probably should have (he was, after all, the sitting vice president).
Meanwhile, Clark, Thompson, and Perry each provide warnings for potential late entrants.
Wes Clark was a political novice who lacked charisma and turned out to be gaffe prone.
Thompson, who last stood for election in 1996, was lazy and didn’t have the “fire in the belly.”
Perry was a charming rock star in Texas, but at the national level, his debate skills were, shall we say, lacking.
This brings us back to Youngkin, a smart and successful governor who never held political office before being elected governor of Virginia in 2021. Youngkin has never had to win a tough GOP primary. He was nominated at a state convention that used rank-choice voting in order to “reduce the chances that a Trumpist candidate would run away with the nomination,” according to The Washington Post.
And although Youngkin embraced culture war rhetoric on his way to victory in 2021, he is temperamentally more Mitt Romney or Jeb Bush than DeSantis, let alone Trump.
Nevertheless, some very wealthy Republicans are so convinced he can beat Trump that they are clamoring for him to run—just as soon as Virginia’s off-year state legislative elections conclude next month.
“[I]f Republicans win in Virginia,” billionaire donor Thomas Peterffy told Costa, “maybe we can talk him into [running for president].”
Though he is not explicitly ruling out a presidential run, Youngkin says he’s “laser focused” on this November’s Virginia’s elections.
The problem with that?
“The [GOP presidential primary] candidate filing deadline for the Nevada Republican caucus is Oct. 15. The candidate filing deadline for the South Carolina Republican presidential primary is Halloween,” explains National Review’s Jim Geraghty.
This is to say that there are some major logistical challenges awaiting Youngkin. But even if those obstacles were not in his way, Youngkin would still be crazy to run for president at this late point in the cycle.
Late entrants always bust. That’s because they are excessively hyped, and therefore, they get put through the wringer instantly. The smallest misstep is magnified 100-fold.
Unless you’re perfect right out of the gate, you will fall flat.
What this means is that you probably have to be at the top of your game at the national level to avoid disaster. In my opinion that’s why Biden, ironically, might have succeeded, whereas the others (a general, an actor/former U.S. senator, and a governor) floundered.
Sure, it feels flattering to be courted to run for president. But if Glenn Youngkin is smart, he will run away from this “opportunity.” And fast.
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