RICHMOND — Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R) traveled to New York on Wednesday to meet with major GOP donors, making the first of several planned out-of-state political trips amid mixed signals about the Republican’s White House ambitions.
On Fox News on Sunday, Roe said the GOP nomination is a “two-person race between Donald Trump and Ron DeSantis,” referring to the former president and the Florida governor, both of whom dominated a Fox poll of Republican primary voters on GOP nominee preferences. The poll put Youngkin at 1 percent.
“There’s simply no room for a third or fourth, or even fifth person in this race,” Roe said.
Roe’s remarks were a stunner given that he is Youngkin’s chief political consultant, a relationship that went unmentioned on Fox.
“No one would describe Youngkin’s prospects as great, but it would have been useful to have him described as potentially good, at least,” said Stephen Farnsworth, a political scientist at the University of Mary Washington. “If he had just said ‘at the moment’ in that quotation, he could have saved himself a lot of grief.”
As Republicans jockey for prominence and the 2024 presidential cycle slowly takes shape, Youngkin has continued to play coy, seeking national attention with regular appearances on Fox while insisting that he is focused solely on Virginia.
Youngkin found himself having to answer for Roe’s remarks during an in-studio Fox interview that was part of his New York trip, brushing off questions about why his own consultant would seem to write off his chances.
“Those are comments that Jeff made,” Youngkin said. “I have not talked to Jeff about this, these comments over the weekend.”
Anonymous comments in a New York Times story on Monday also seemed to throw water on a Youngkin bid, even as it included him on a short list of potential presidential candidates coming to New York to raise money.
“People familiar with [Youngkin’s] thinking” told the Times that he is less inclined to run because Trump is looking weaker than expected, probably leading to a more crowded field than the governor had anticipated.
But later Monday, in an interview with the Associated Press, Roe insisted that no one should count his client out, describing Youngkin as “a unicorn in American politics” who “will make a lane for himself,” should he decide to run.
Roe declined to speak to The Washington Post beyond pointing to remarks that he gave to the AP, which also included: “The governor makes his decisions based on his ability to win, on his ability to make a difference and what his heart leads him to do. He doesn’t make decisions like that based on politics or political consultants or hacks.”
Axiom ran the Ted Cruz presidential campaign in 2016, the last Republican effort to offer a real nomination challenge to Trump. Roe has made clear to others that he and his firm, which has 17 separate operations and is one of the largest GOP consultancies in the country, are interested in being a part of another presidential effort.
Roe has spoken to multiple nascent campaigns informally, according to a person familiar with the conversations who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe private discussions. But the firm still works closely with Youngkin, who has been far more cautious than other governors, such as DeSantis and New Hampshire’s Chris Sununu, in making overt moves toward preparing a presidential campaign. Republican operatives have begun to question how long Axiom will wait for Youngkin to decide to move forward before signing on to another candidate.
Kristin Davison, an Axiom strategist who typically joins Youngkin for out-of-state political travel, said she did not accompany him to New York because the governor had official business there. Youngkin was joined by two state employees, spokeswomen Becca Glover and Macaulay Porter.
They did not respond to requests for comment about the trip. Youngkin’s public calendar listed, “No Public Events Scheduled.” Another Youngkin representative, Rob Damschen, said the spokeswomen accompanied the governor because he also had official business in New York, including pitching the state to business leaders.
Youngkin traveled extensively on behalf of fellow Republicans seeking the governorship in other states ahead of November’s midterm elections. He did not have much to show for it — only five of the 15 people he stumped for prevailed — and his frequent absences drew criticism, even from some fellow Republicans.
Hunkered down in Richmond while the General Assembly was in session for 46 days, Youngkin resumed travel with the New York trip just days after the legislature adjourned Saturday — leaving a mountain of legislation on his desk and the state budget unfinished.
Two people familiar with Youngkin’s plans who spoke on the condition of anonymity to share private discussions say he has more national travel planned, including a possible trip to Texas.