The biggest political news of the past fortnight, at least to insiders, wasn’t Donald Trump’s alleged pre-arrest S.O.S. on Truth Social or the latest debt ruminations. Instead, it may very well have been the announcement that Jeff Roe, the mega-consultant who has been openly and actively pining for a ’24 campaign to run since before the midterms, would be taking his talents to Ron DeSantis’ soon-to-be-official PAC, Never Back Down. Roe’s decision to go all-in on DeSantis was also an effective Dear John letter to Glenn Youngkin, whom he had lifted from well-heeled obscurity to the Virginia statehouse two years ago. Youngkin’s hopes of a long-shot ’24 bid now seemed dashed.
And yet, I’ve since learned, Youngkin hasn’t given up on the dream of running and has signaled to top supporters and donors that Roe’s semi-betrayal has not impacted his thinking. In fact, in the love-hate relationship between the two men, it was Youngkin who told Roe to go, rather than commit to running on Roe’s timeline. As I have reported before, the former co-C.E.O. of Carlyle wants to preserve his optionality, as they say in finance, and he believes his best strategy is a late entry into the race, after either: 1) DeSantis fizzles, or 2) Trump and DeSantis effectively mutilate one another so thoroughly that they create a lane for a third option.
In the meantime, Youngkin has told people close to him that he needs a success story to tell on the stump from his brief two-year career in politics. In addition to heralding his C.R.T.-piñata-ing and soccer-mom-scaring keep-it-out-of-the-classroom schtick, in which he turned non-issues into made-for-the-right wedges, Younkgin wants to truly turn Virginia red by flipping the state legislature during the midterms this November. By then, of course, he’ll have missed various deadlines to get on state primary ballots. Some say by delaying his decision, he’s already made it.