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Youngkin, amid 2024 buzz, sidesteps question about completing term

Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin speaks at the Texas Tribune Festival in Austin on Sept. 23. (Jordan Vonderhaar/Bloomberg News)

RICHMOND — Gov. Glenn Youngkin, who seems to be inching closer to a 2024 presidential bid, sidestepped when asked this week if he would commit to completing all four years of the term he began just eight months ago.

“I’m committed to completing our agenda,” the Republican told CNBC correspondent Ylan Mui at a forum in New York Wednesday.

That noncommittal response comes amid mounting evidence that Youngkin, a former private-equity mogul who plowed $20 million of his own money into last year’s campaign, is considering a White House run.

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Youngkin consistently denies that he is thinking about 2024, but his actions suggest otherwise. He has met with megadonors in New York, formed two political committees, and has been raising his national profile by stumping for Republican gubernatorial candidates in about a dozen states. He is a regular on Fox News. This week, he is hosting a two-day donor retreat outside Charlottesville.

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Youngkin spokeswoman Becca Glover declined on Thursday to clarify what the governor had meant or say whether he intends to serve his full term.

“We’d refer you to the Governor’s comments yesterday and decline to comment further,” she said in an email.

Youngkin’s full answer was long and left room for interpretation — hallmarks of his communication style, which at times allows different listeners to come away with opposite takes on whatever he has said. A Richmond Times-Dispatch article on the exchange suggested that Youngkin might have taken himself out of the 2024 running with his response, which included a bit about how he is racing against a four-year countdown clock to complete an ambitious agenda.

But a Youngkin aide later told the news organization that “the governor wasn’t making a definitive commitment to serve his full term,” the paper reported.

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Mui had prefaced her question by noting that Virginia’s constitution prohibits governors from serving back-to-back terms.

“Virginia is term-limited when it comes to how long the governor can serve,” she said. “So you can only serve one term, right? You can only serve four years. Are you committed to serving out all four years of your term?”

The first word out of Youngkin’s mouth was “yes.” Maybe that was a promise to stay put for four years but more likely, mere confirmation that Mui had the term-limit background right. Youngkin’s office declined to clarify.

“Yes, and so, first of all, maybe a little background on that,” he began, launching from there into a history lesson on how Thomas Jefferson and Virginia’s other founders wanted that check on the governor’s tenure because “they weren’t big fans of the executive branch.”

He went on to talk about what an ambitious agenda he has and how he works hard every day against the four-year countdown clock ticking away in his office, a gift from former Florida governor Jeb Bush, who sent it via FedEx along with a letter saying, “Governor, get moving. You only have four years.”

“I recognize that we have a big agenda, and that big agenda, we only have four years to accomplish,” Youngkin said. “And I’m committed to completing our agenda. And I think we can.”

Unsaid but perhaps implied: Virginia’s ambitious governor may think he can complete that agenda before the next president is inaugurated in January 2025, a year before his term runs out.