Gov. Glenn Youngkin of Virginia Juggles Local Issues and National Ambition

Since the midterms, when many Trump-endorsed candidates lost their races, some of Mr. Youngkin’s backers perceive Mr. Trump’s influence on the wane and the opportunities for challengers on the rise. Furthermore, the former president has all but disappeared into his Florida estate after announcing his bid for re-election.

Mr. Youngkin is little known to Republican voters beyond Virginia, barely registering in early primary polls. His main appeal is to political consultants and to the donor class, those who connect with him as a wealthy former co-chief executive of the Carlyle Group, a financial investment firm.

Ron DeSantis, Florida’s pugilistic governor, is the leading Trump alternative. But Youngkin supporters paint him as a worthy alternative with a more affable, less prickly personality, someone who transitioned easily from a corporate glad-hander to a first-time candidate. Supporters envision Mr. Youngkin winning over droves of primary voters in the intimate campaign settings of Iowa and New Hampshire.

“He’s got this very likable persona,” said Tom Davis, a former Republican congressman from Virginia. “He’s not angry. He walks into a room and he smiles.” Mr. Davis called Mr. DeSantis “the shiny new object right now,” but added, “When you get into one-on-one campaigning, I would just say Glenn is a natural.”

Jimmy Centers, a Republican strategist in Iowa, said Mr. Youngkin’s championing of parent rights — over how America’s racial history is taught or what books students can be exposed to — grabbed the attention of conservatives nationally in 2021. But now, Mr. Centers said, Mr. Youngkin needs to build on that victory.

“One could argue he was the first candidate to demonstrate parental rights was a winning issue,” Mr. Centers said. “That issue and his position will open doors for him in Iowa and other states, but my sense is that voters and caucusgoers will also want to measure results now that he is in office.”

Mr. Youngkin, who is 56, insisted on Saturday that he had no timeline for making up his mind about a presidential run.


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