Journalist lays out the fatal flaws of 'Goldilocks candidate' Glenn Youngkin’s MAGA-lite formula
As governor of Virginia, Republican Glenn Youngkin has tried to pull off a balancing act. Youngkin isn’t a Never Trumper and tries to avoid offending the MAGA movement, but he has also avoided the type of abrasive, in-your-face theatrics that Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is known for.
The Virginia governor is being mentioned as a possible GOP presidential candidate for 2024, and he is obviously hoping that his balancing act will appeal to both swing voters and MAGA voters two years from now. But journalist Eleanor Clift, in an op-ed published by the Daily Beast on October 3, lays out some reasons why a MAGA-lite approach isn’t serving Youngkin well.
“Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin is less than a year into his governorship,” Clift explains, “but he’s already making moves to be the GOP’s next presidential nominee. His political style tries to have it both ways. He aims to be sufficiently middle-of-the-road in a crucial purple state, while also playing the culture-war hits to win over the MAGA base. But it simply might not be possible to be the ‘Goldilocks candidate’ — serving porridge that’s neither too hot nor too cold — in the 2024 Republican primary.”
Clift notes that in Virginia, Youngkin has a 45 percent approval rating. According to Larry Sabato, who studies politics at the University of Virginia, Youngkin’s problem is that he is too MAGA for many voters in Virginia but not MAGA enough for Republican primary voters.
Sabato says of Youngkin’s poll numbers, “It’s not impressive at all. Most new governors in any state by this point are in the 60s or upper 50s.” Comparing Youngkin to DeSantis and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, Sabato told Clift, “They’ve filled in all the MAGA boxes with a black marker, while Youngkin’s is in pencil.”
Stephen Farnsworth, who teaches political science at the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg, Virginia, told Clift that Youngkin was elected in 2021 by being “Trump-adjacent”; he was “sympathetic to the concerns of Trump voters without being the kind of dyed-in-the-wool culture warrior who would have crashed and burned in a Virginia election.”
Clift writes, “Youngkin wants to be the ‘Goldilocks’ candidate, but if he can’t compete with DeSantis and Abbott, then he’s not ‘just the right temperature.’ And if he’s too right-wing for respectable approval ratings in Virginia, he’s not ‘just right’ there, either. That sums up the Youngkin formula — not too hot to turn people off, not too soft to be accused of shrinking from MAGA, but just right for what he thinks the money people and the voters are looking for. But it’s not evident that there’s a market for what Youngkin is selling.”
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