Virginia Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s accomplished fundraising ability has Democrats playing defense ahead of the commonwealth’s November contests for legislative control, and multiple strategists from across the board suggest there’s a larger motive at play.
President Biden reportedly directed the Democratic National Committee (DNC) to dump $1.2 million into Virginia legislative races last week — a sure sign that the president is looking to counter Youngkin’s influence on voters.
The additional funding, which was first reported by the Washington Post, brings the DNC’s contributions to the Virginia Democratic Party to $1.5 million. That figure, the outlet noted, is 15 times the amount the DNC had given four years ago, when all 140 seats in the Virginia Senate and House of Delegates appeared on the ballot.
Youngkin hopes to boot Democrats from their last stronghold in Richmond, where Democrats hold a slim majority in the state Senate. If he’s successful, Youngkin would be able push forward a conservative agenda in a state that has been trending blue over the past two decades.
Should Republicans come out on top in the state’s legislative elections, Youngkin, who is a rising star in the GOP, could be moved toward a potential White House run, perhaps even next year, political insiders suggested in comments to Fox News Digital.
“Biden knows that Virginia is a very important state, and as a purple state with off-year elections, these results will be seen as a measure of where the country stands,” said Carly Cooperman, a Democratic pollster who serves as CEO and partner at Schoen Cooperman Research. “If the results in the state Senate and House of Delegates are positive for the Democrats, it will be seen as a shift in momentum heading into the 2024 election, where Biden currently is struggling in the polls. Likewise, if Republicans are successful in Virginia, it would increase Gov. Youngkin’s standing significantly, improving the already popular governor’s positioning for a last-minute presidential run.”
Noelle Nikpour, a Republican political consultant and fundraiser, said she believes “Democrats may be thirsty for an alternative,” on national and local levels, amid reported concerns from Democratic voters that Biden may not be able to finish his current term or successfully seek re-election.
“The reason I think this is alarming is because the DNC wants to make sure that they’re matching contributions that Glenn Youngkin has, because he is actually looking like he could be a threat,” she said. “Glenn Youngkin is not a hard brand leader for the GOP, so he’s very reasonable.”
Pointing to his expertise in placing “education more into the hands of the parents,” Nikpour suggested that Youngkin “poses a threat” to Democrats in the state who are hoping to extend their reach to Virginians. “It’s a blaring red signal that they want to make sure they have enough money to tear him down,” she said of the DNC’s efforts. “You don’t see the Democrat Party trying to raise what other Republican governors [have] because they’re not a threat.”
Similarly, Amy Tarkanian, a GOP strategist who formerly served as chairwoman for the Nevada Republican Party, touted Youngkin’s “ability to fundraise, successfully endorse candidates and campaign for the down ticket.” Partnered with his “message of family, education, and common sense,” Tarkanian said she believes that Youngkin would make a “formidable contender” should he seek the presidency in the future.
Kevin Walling, a former Biden campaign surrogate in the lead-up to the 2020 election, said he views Youngkin’s ability to capture the state’s electorate in November as a threat, but he dismissed the notion that Biden may feel the same way.
“I’ve got to give Governor Youngkin credit – rather than attacking vote by mail and early voting options like many in the GOP, he’s actively encouraging Republican voters to use these options,” Walling said. “I doubt President Biden views Youngkin as a threat, but I certainly do, and I’m encouraged that the DNC is actively engaged in this off-cycle election.”
“It’s also interesting to see the fact that so many Republicans are still clamoring for the Virginia governor to get into the 2024 race, showing that there’s still uncertainty that the current field has what it takes to topple the former president,” Walling added.
Unlike some Democrats who view the Republican governor as a threat to Biden nationally, Hank Sheinkopf, a former Democratic consultant for the Clinton-Gore campaign, believes that Youngkin has yet to prove himself to a large portion of voters.
“Virginia Governor Youngkin is a potential candidate for president. His state has been voting more frequently for Democrats. Should Republicans take a hit in 2023 legislative contests, Youngkin would look weak. It is likely then that he would be less likely to have his party’s institutional support. Result: Biden has one less serious challenger,” Sheinkopf said. “Education and values arguments are driving growing portions of the electorate. Youngkin can likely take on democrats on those issues successfully. As of now, Youngkin has not established himself as attractive to independent voters. Abortion is one reason.”
For most Republicans, however, Youngkin remains a beacon for the party on a national stage as Biden’s favorability continues to dwindle and the DNC pumps money into the state.
“President Biden’s dismal polling among Republicans, Independents and Democrats are putting Democratic efforts around the country on defense in places that are typically safe for them,” said Matt Shupe, who founded Praetorian Public Relations in 2013. “President Biden is forcing Democrats to fill their coffers for defense rather than offense, and this bodes well for the chances of Republicans to take seats from California to Virginia.”
Shupe said that Youngkin “represents a clear and present danger to the Democratic establishment and doctrine by ushering a new stripe of Republican leaning populism that successfully drove parents of all backgrounds from supporting Democrats to electing” him to serve as governor in 2021.
“Now that same energy and the Democratic Party’s hell-bent crusade to separate children from their families and into the possession of the state will likely contribute to Republican successes nationwide in 2024 and beyond,” added Shupe, a Republican strategist.
In July, Axios reported that Youngkin’s Spirit of Virginia PAC had raised a “record $5.75 million” in the second quarter of 2023. The outlet also noted that “Republican committees, candidates and caucuses raised nearly $13 million” over the same time period. Democrats, meanwhile, raised $11 million over the same time span.
A Virginia Commonwealth University poll from July found that Virginia voters prefer Youngkin over Biden, 44% to 37%.
Fox News’ Paul Steinhauser contributed to this report.