After The Washington Post revealed last week that several attendees of an upcoming GOP megadonor conference planned to “push, if not shove” Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin into the presidential primary, some right-wing media voices leapt to discount the “nonsense” speculation as a “terrible idea” and potential career-ending embarrassment for Youngkin.
The conference is being called the “Red Vest Retreat,” named after the fleece that Youngkin wore during much of his 2021 campaign, and although it’s nominally intended to boost Republican chances to win full control of the Virginia House of Delegates this November, the Post reported that others consider “the primary purpose of the event … is to evaluate Youngkin’s capacity to mount a presidential campaign.”
Reaction across right-wing media to a potential Youngkin 2024 presidential campaign since the Post’s report came out have been largely negative. Many commentators profess that although they “like Glenn Youngkin” as governor of Virginia, trial balloons for his 2024 presidential campaign are little more than “the plutocrats … throwing a Hail Mary” to try to stop former President Donald Trump. “It will not go well” if Youngkin joins, they say, “no matter how much money is promised” to his campaign.
On Fox News, a network that has done a lot of the Youngkin cheerleading, longtime contributor Tammy Bruce put it directly: “Youngkin coming in makes no sense. There are legitimate, serious people running already, and if they can't beat Trump during the primary season, no one can do it. Because people know what Trump has delivered. That’s what they want.”
On September 28, Fox host Laura Ingraham greeted the news as a sign of large donors “freaking out” at Trump’s continued lead and “throwing a Hail Mary” to stop him. Laughing, she asked, “What nonsense is this, at this point? I mean, talk about doing an end run around the people.”
Her guest, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich -- who is also reported to be giving a speech at the Red Vest Retreat -- replied that he is “a big fan of Glenn Youngkin” and that “in 2028, he could be a very impressive [candidate], maybe even front-runner for president. But not this time. Not this year,” before reiterating his argument that the primary is already over and Trump will be the nominee.
The Daily Wire’s Matt Walsh struck a similar tone the following day, praising the governor but calling it a “terrible idea” for him to run. “I like Glenn Youngkin,” he began, taking credit for his 2021 election, “but if you’re pushing him into the race right now, then I can only assume that you're some kind of double agent working for the Democrats,” because a 2024 campaign would only be “sullying” a potential star of “the next generation of conservative leaders” by “putting a loss on his resume. Like, what’s the plan?”
Noting that Trump polls at over 50% of the Republican primary electorate, Walsh asked, “Who are the Trump supporters, at this point, who don’t like any of the 50 other options that are currently available to them, including Ron DeSantis, but would abandon Trump for Glenn Youngkin?”
“We can all see the reality in front of our face here that as long as — Trump is massively ahead of course. His chances of becoming the nominee are very, very high. The only chance of that possibly changing is not if more people get into the race, but if people start getting out,” he concluded.
Turning Point USA co-founder Charlie Kirk also praised Youngkin’s record as governor, while adding “some unsolicited advice: Do not do this.”
CHARLIE KIRK (HOST): It will not go well for you, no matter how many donors tell you it's going to go well for you, no matter how much money is promised to you, no matter how many consultants come to you. Do not do this. I like you. I like what you're doing. You're a strong Republican. Especially since you're in the state of Virginia. Don't do this to yourself. Don't become a mockery.
Much of the emerging conservative media opposition to Youngkin’s campaign also happens to be coming from enthusiastic Trump supporters. But even National Review, which has a complicated relationship with the Trumpism it helped build and now distastes, does not see the point of Youngkin’s entry into the race.
Senior political correspondent Jim Geraghty wrote that he is “just not convinced that the reason Trump is well ahead in the primary is because the race is missing the correct traditionally conservative governor who doesn’t freak out soccer moms,” but because “right now at least a small majority of Republicans want him to be the nominee.”
If Youngkin joins the race, Geraghty wrote, “what’s most likely to happen” is that “he will take 1 or 2 percent from everybody,” and “if your objective is to have a nominee besides Trump” -- the obvious point of trying to get Youngkin into the race -- “that doesn’t really get you anywhere.”