The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Opinion So far, Glenn Youngkin is mastering the duck and the dodge

Glenn Youngkin, the GOP nominee for governor of Virginia, in Richmond on May 11. (Steve Helber/AP)

GLENN YOUNGKIN, the Republican former private equity executive running for governor in Virginia, touts himself as a non-politician and a “different kind of candidate.” But he has a veteran pol’s facile touch for the duck, the dodge, the pivot and the knowing wink at his party’s base.

Mr. Youngkin is an avowed conservative. Yet none of his rivals for the GOP nomination were as careful as he was to avoid adding details to the slogans he trotted out at every candidates’ forum. That has enabled him to maintain his “pro-life,” pro-guns, pro-Trump credibility with Republicans while presenting himself to suburban moderates as an anodyne everyman with an unthreatening veneer.

“As your governor,” Mr. Youngkin told the conservative Faith and Freedom Coalition at a forum in April, shortly before the GOP nominating convention, “we will stand for the unborn and protect the unborn like never before.” Now, as the party’s nominee, he allows only that he is “pro-life” and refuses to elaborate.

Would his “like never before” promise mean he would sign legislation restricting abortion starting at 20 weeks into pregnancy, as Gov. Greg Gianforte (R) did in Montana this spring, or as early as six weeks, as Gov. Greg Abbott (R) did in Texas? Would he back a measure to outlaw abortion immediately if the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade, as Gov. Kevin Stitt (R) did in Oklahoma? Would he seek to reimpose the draconian restrictions on abortion clinics that prevailed in Virginia for five years, until 2016, which forced several to close by requiring them to meet hospital-like building standards?

Mr. Youngkin won’t say. Yet he is quick to assert he will do everything in his power — and, presumably, spend heavily from his personal fortune, estimated at hundreds of millions of dollars — to help Republicans recapture control of the General Assembly, which they lost just two years ago. If he’s successful at that, he could easily be presented with antiabortion bills that mirror those enacted by other GOP-dominated states in recent months.

On guns, Mr. Youngkin mouths familiar platitudes about being a lifetime member of the National Rifle Association and vows to stand up for Second Amendment rights. He says he would roll back measures signed into law by Gov. Ralph Northam, a Democrat, which might include universal background checks on all gun sales; so-called red flag authority that empowers judges to order guns seized from individuals who pose a risk to themselves or others; and a measure restricting handgun purchases to one a month.

But would Mr. Youngkin go further, for instance, by signing a bill to drop the state’s current requirement that gun owners undergo an in-person firearms training and safety course?

We put that question to the Youngkin campaign. Silence.

For Mr. Youngkin, silence on the substance of policy is a strategy. Unlike virtually every other gubernatorial candidate in both the Republican convention last month and the Democratic primary next week, Mr. Youngkin has no issues page on his website. As he introduces himself to voters, he needs to provide policy positions, and not just platitudes.

Read more:

Mark J. Rozell: Glenn Youngkin’s blank slate may give the Virginia GOP a fighting chance

Norman Leahy: Glenn Youngkin’s message discipline could make the Virginia suburbs competitive again

The Post’s View: Terry McAuliffe was a first-rate governor. He makes a compelling case that he would be again.

James Hohmann: Virginia’s gubernatorial race is winnable for Republicans — if they pick someone electable

Norman Leahy: Ralph Northam auditions for the role of Virginia’s ‘Power Broker’