There’s been no shortage of verbiage about culture wars and schools and book banning and parental choice as the key elements in Glenn Youngkin‘s upset victory over Terry McAuliffe in the governor’s race.
Nor did the TV guys, at their magic walls, fail to point out that this neophyte Republican candidate ran ahead of Trump, who lost the commonwealth by 10 points last year, in one key rural or suburban county after another.
The governor elect was so unknown that when he announced his candidacy back at January, The Washington Post headline had the following:
“Glenn Youngkin (Great Falls businessman and political newcomer) will officially enter this year’s race to become Virginia governor. “
Republican gubernatorial nominee Glenn Youngkin speaks to reporters in Fairfax, Virginia, Sept. 23, 2021.
Now come those who think the previously obscure Youngkin has cracked the code. It’s only one state, but it is believed that Youngkin has figured out how he can retain the MAGA base and attract Republicans who may have disagreed with Trump’s policies, but liked his personality.
That was, to put it mildly, a challenge. Trump continued to make statements about Virginia and claimed significant credit for the win. It’s not surprising that Trump never met Youngkin in person to campaign for him, and he stayed away from a last-minute video event featuring the former president. The continuing Twitter ban also muffled the voice of the man who’d had more than 80 million followers.
Well, it didn’t take long for some conservatives to start fantasizing about a Trump-free 2024.
Let me stop here and say the obvious: Trump can run for his old job again if he so chooses. Leaving aside health issues or other unforeseen complications, it’s hard to imagine another Republican beating him – and most of his former allies, like Nikki Haley, won’t even try.
But National Review, never a huge fan of Trump going back to 2016, is seizing the moment.
“The stakes simply will be too high in 2024 for Republicans to defer to Trump and allow him to use the election as an extended ego trip to air his grievances about 2020,” the magazine says.
Supporters of Virginia Republican Glenn Youngkin react as Fox News declares him the winner of the commonwealth’s gubernatorial election, at an Election Night party in Chantilly, Virginia, Nov. 3, 2021.
It’s true, as National Review says, that some prominent Republicans are privately hoping that Trump doesn’t run again. The risk is still there, writes Philip Klein, an online editor. “It would be helpful if everybody assumed that he will run rather than hoping that he doesn’t.” “
The headline is a call to arms, that a “Credible Conservative Need to Challenge Trump in 2024. “
Ross Douthat, the NeverTrump conservative at The New York Times, says Youngkin proved “you don’t actually need a Trump-like figure at the top of the ticket to mobilize Donald Trump’s core voters” – and still win over suburbanites. He writes that the problem is that the core Trumpian constituency still wants Trump as the party’s leader, if not for other reasons. But maybe, just maybe, the solution is for the party’s less-Trumpy constituencies to rally around an alternative whose electoral lib-owning just put Trump’s 2020 showing to shame. “
Douthat does not say who it might be. He also admits that it is probably a fantasy. “
What’s implicit in these scenarios is that Trump has so much baggage, especially after Jan. 6, that he’d lose a general election. But what if that’s not the case? He’d either be running against a politically weakened, 82-year-old Joe Biden, uneven campaigner Kamala Harris or someone else.
Former President Donald Trump and President Biden (Getty Images
Those floating scenarios to end-run Trump are a clear minority in the GOP. Youngkin’s path has shown them a glimpse at a different future after five years of Trumpian dominance.