With Virginia’s budget finally wrapped up and the General Assembly out of Richmond for the summer, Gov. Glenn Youngkin picked an auspicious time for a seasonal trip to speak to fellow Republicans on the Great Plains.
Youngkin will deliver the keynote address at the Nebraska Republican Party Convention, which meets July 8-9 in Kearney, Neb., a foray with potential political repercussions due to its proximity to adjacent Iowa, where the Quadrennial political caucuses will help start the next presidential election season in 2024.
It will be Youngkin’s first political trip outside of Virginia since taking office in January. He will share the stage with Gov. Pete Ricketts, who already knows him well as co-chairman of the Republican Governors Association, and Nebraska Republican gubernatorial candidate Jim Pillen, but the lanky Virginian will take center stage.
“Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin will deliver the keynote address at the 2022 Republican Party of Nebraska State Convention as we celebrate life and liberty!” the party proclaimed in a Twitter announcement.
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The speech is a favor for Ricketts, who invited him, according to Kristin Davison, vice president of Axiom Strategies, the national consulting firm that handled Youngkin’s gubernatorial campaign and still advises him.
“Governor Ricketts was very helpful during the governor’s campaign and during the transition,” Davison said Wednesday. “Governor Youngkin is trying to help Governor Ricketts, and I also think he will offer political support” to Pillen in his bid for governor.
Youngkin’s aides won’t say whether the governor’s trip represents a bigger effort to build a national profile, but with his first General Assembly session and budget behind him, veteran political fortune teller Larry Sabato doesn’t. not exclude.
“He’s willing to put his toe in the water,” said Sabato, president of the University of Virginia Center for Politics, “but it’s his little toe.”
The reaction would be different if Youngkin had been asked to speak at a major party rally in Iowa or New Hampshire, he said. “So I think we could really conclude that he was a candidate for president. But the Republican Party of Nebraska?
It’s not uncommon for Virginia governors to consider running for president or hoping to land on a national ticket. Virginia and New Jersey are the only states to elect a governor the year following a presidential election.
That means new Virginia governors get outsized national attention between presidential elections and midterm congressional elections.
Seven of the country’s first 12 presidents were born in Virginia, but no Virginian has been elected president since Woodrow Wilson.
Many have been mentioned as potential candidates for national office, particularly in the modern era, beginning with Linwood Holton, who in 1969 became the first Republican-elected governor in Virginia since Reconstruction. The list is bipartisan and includes Democratic governors. Chuck Robb, Doug Wilder and Mark Warner and Republican governors. George Allen and Jim Gilmore.
Wilder briefly sought the 1992 Democratic presidential nomination which went to Bill Clinton. Gilmore, governor from 1998 to 2002, later sought the GOP presidential nomination in 2008 and 2016.
For a time, Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell was mentioned as a potential running mate for Mitt Romney, the 2012 GOP presidential nominee.
Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Virginia, was Hillary Clinton’s running mate in 2016 when she lost the presidential election to Republican Donald Trump, a century after Wilson was elected to a second term.
Youngkin has drawn a lot of attention from national Republicans since upsetting McAuliffe last November, ending a GOP drought in statewide elections since 2009 despite the long shadow cast by Trump. Youngkin was the featured guest at the Republican Governors Association’s annual conference in Arizona weeks after his victory.
The governor has also positioned himself to influence elections and public policy in other states.
In March, Youngkin’s political team formed the Spirit of Virginia Political Action Committee under Section 527 of the federal tax code to raise funds for political candidates in Virginia and other states, and America’s Spirit, a “welfare organization” under the tax code to advocate for political issues but not campaigns.
But Youngkin’s speech to Republicans in Nebraska next month doesn’t move Sabato’s political needle.
“I would put a note on the calendar, but I wouldn’t tear the calendar page and stick it on the wall,” Sabato said. “It’s not that important.”