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Will he stay or will he go? Youngkin tiptoes around plans

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Gov. Glenn Youngkin spoke Sept. 14 at the V3 (Virginia Values Veterans) Awards Luncheon at the Greater Richmond Convention Center.

Several breaks in the rain on Saturday, but additional rain follows Sunday and Monday.

Did Gov. Glenn Youngkin just take himself out of the running for the White House in 2024?

Youngkin, a rising GOP political star who’s been campaigning for Republicans around the country, appeared to tell a television host on Wednesday that he is committed to serving his full four-year term as governor, which would take him out of the running for the next presidential race.

Asked by CNBC host Ylan Mui whether he would serve the full four years of his gubernatorial term, Youngkin answered “yes” because he needs time to carry out the political agenda in Virginia on which voters elected him last year in a state that bars governors from serving consecutive terms.

“We have a big agenda, and that agenda, we only have four years to accomplish,” he said in a keynote talk at the cable network’s “Delivering Alpha” conference in New York. “I am committed to completing our agenda, and I think we can.”

Youngkin’s term ends in January 2026. The next president and vice president take office in January 2025.

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A Youngkin aide said later that the governor wasn’t making a definitive commitment to serve his full term but was repeating his previous statements that he is putting his gubernatorial duties first.

“He’s focused on Virginia and delivering his agenda,” spokesperson Macaulay Porter said Wednesday. “He’s focused on 2022, and he’s remained consistent in his answers.”

The Washington Post reported this week that on Thursday and Friday, Youngkin will play host to GOP donors at Keswick Hall, a resort outside Charlottesville.

Youngkin was in New York on Wednesday to visit with the three national bond rating agencies about maintaining Virginia’s AAA rating with all of them, his first time in carrying out an annual ritual for governors intent on protecting the coveted rating for issuing state debt.

Students across Virginia protest Youngkin's transgender policies

But politics collided with business frequently at the CNBC conference, as the governor linked the chances of avoiding a recession to electing Republicans to Congress and statehouses this fall.

Youngkin contended that the election of Republican Donald Trump in 2016 enabled the United States to prevent a recession. He expects Republicans to win control of the House of Representatives and said he is “cautiously optimistic” about them taking the Senate in midterm elections on Nov. 8. “I think that will be a calming influence,” he said.

“I am expecting if that can happen, we will see, yes, a slowdown, but we won’t have a hard landing,” he added.

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The governor acknowledged “real pressure from the rise in interest rates, but I do think we can manage through this.”

Youngkin made a point of showcasing three Republican challengers in new House districts held by Democrats, all women first elected in 2018 in response to Trump’s election: Prince William Supervisor Yesli Vega against Rep. Abigail Spanberger in the 7th District; state Sen. Jen Kiggans against Rep. Elaine Luria in the 2nd District; and Hung Cao against Rep. Jennifer Wexton in the 10th District. (Kiggans has released a new ad that features Youngkin.)

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He said the elections would turn on “kitchen table” issues such as inflation, crime and education. “I think it all comes back to focusing on issues that are really at the heart of people’s lives,” he said.

Youngkin happily defended his trips outside of Virginia to campaign for Republican gubernatorial candidates, saying they would help other GOP candidates on the ballot for Congress, including Arizona Republican Kari Lake, who denies the legitimacy of President Joe Biden’s election in 2020.

“I believe, in fact, that they’re all Republicans. ... All Republicans don’t all believe the same thing,” he said in response to Mui’s question about Republican division over the 2020 election.

Youngkin also defended his model policies on the rights of transgender students in public schools and potential restrictions on abortion rights in Virginia, issues that Mui suggested could influence corporate decisions about whether to establish business operations in the state.

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“It’s not universal that all companies are saying the same thing,” he responded, noting that many companies are choosing to migrate to Virginia and other Republican-led states in the South.

This year, Virginia placed third in the CNBC rankings for “Best State for Business” after ranking first in 2019 and 2021 under then-Gov. Ralph Northam, a Democrat. The cable network did not issue rankings in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The draft transgender school policy, generally requiring schools to treat students by their biological sex instead of their gender identity and emphasizing parents’ role, prompted a walkout by students in parts of Virginia on Tuesday in protest.

Youngkin said that’s good. “I applaud the exercising of our First Amendment rights,” he said. “It’s a really important moment for us.”

He said the draft policies do not allow transgender students to be bullied or discriminated against but require their parents to be involved in decisions their children are making instead of being excluded from those discussions at schools.

“If parents make a decision that they would like accommodations for their children, they will have them,” he said.

On abortion, Youngkin said Virginia voters “elected a pro-life governor” and said he hopes to sign legislation that would restrict most abortions after 15 weeks, or the threshold when a fetus can feel pain. (Youngkin supports exceptions in cases of rape, incest and when the woman’s life is in jeopardy.)

“I think that’s a good place for Virginia to land,” he said.

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