Now that Virginia Republicans have selected Glenn Youngkin as their candidate for governor, the question is whether he can help the party end its 12-year losing streak in statewide elections.
Youngkin has never run for public office before, but will probably be competitive in November’s general election, thanks in part to his deep pockets, according to longtime Virginia political analyst Bob Holsworth.
“He probably has almost-unlimited funds,” Holsworth said. “We are likely to see the most expensive gubernatorial race in the history of Virginia.”
That would be especially likely if Democrats were to nominate former Gov. Terry McAuliffe in their primary election next month, as McAuliffe is well-known for being a highly effective fundraiser.
Youngkin, a former CEO of The Carlyle Group investment firm, has already lent his campaign more than $5 million in his effort to secure the Republican nomination.
“He has done really a remarkable job in a short period of time mobilizing voters,” Holsworth said. “My sense of Youngkin is that he is probably the best candidate of the group that Republicans were considering.”
Former President Donald Trump endorsed Youngkin on Tuesday, a situation that comes with positives and negatives for Youngkin. Trump is popular among Republicans but not with the overall electorate, losing in Virginia by more than five points in 2016 and 10 points in 2020.
“Youngkin probably over the next few months is going to try to sound a lot more like Larry Hogan than Donald Trump as he appeals to suburban voters,” said Holsworth. “He can, I think, pivot a little bit. And as time goes on, he’s going to talk about a lot of other people who are supporting him other than Donald Trump.”
McAuliffe, who is leading in the polls for the Democratic nomination, wasted no time pouncing on the endorsement.
“Virginians have rejected Donald Trump’s hate, conspiracy theories and dangerous lies at every turn, and we’re going to do it again to his hand-picked, extreme right-wing candidate Glenn Youngkin this November,” McAuliffe said in a statement.
Youngkin came out ahead after votes were tallied from a Republican convention over the weekend, defeating six other candidates.
Among those who lost was state Sen. Amanda Chase, who closely aligned herself with Trump. While Youngkin did not embrace Trump to the same Chase did, he spoke favorably of the former president during the campaign. He also made “election integrity” a top issue in his campaign, allowing him to appeal to Trump voters who still believe the 2020 election was stolen from him without having to invoke Trump’s name directly.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.