One Step at a Time: Things aren’t necessarily as bad as they seem.

Thundery times! Government shutdown, House Speaker revolt, freak storm floods, automotive strike, antitrust ventures, immigration turmoil, Xi Jinping bullying, war in Ukraine. Senior statesman Robert Gates wrote last week in Foreign Affairs, “The United States finds itself in a uniquely treacherous position: facing aggressive adversaries with a propensity to miscalculate yet incapable of mustering the unity and strength necessary to dissuade them.”

Don’t lose heart. The widely expected rematch of Joe Biden and Donald Trump may not take place.

Consider the possibilities surrounding Glenn Youngkin, potential last-minute mainstream Republican Party candidate.

Economic Principals has been interested in Youngkin since he won the Virginia governor’s office in 2022, defeating former governor (and Clinton family stalwart) Terry McAuliffe. With the passage of time, that interest has grown to intrigue.

There is much to like in the 57-year-old Youngkin. Unlike Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, he plays well with others, having attended Houston’s Rice University on a basketball scholarship. As a 25-year veteran and former co-chair of the private equity firm Carlyle Group, he is thoroughly familiar with American foreign policy. He became worth some $440 million in the process. Not surprisingly, his demeanor is cheerful and optimistic.

Youngkin accepted Donald Trump’s endorsement in 2022 but otherwise kept his distance from the former president. He leans right on most culture-war issues, having quit with his wife their Episcopal church in McLean, Virginia over its endorsement of same-sex marriage, to establish an independent parish nearby. He is similarly cautious and friendly in other hard choices he makes. His Republican ticket-mates included Lieutenant Governor Winsome Sears, the first African-American woman elected to statewide office in Virginia, and Attorney General  Jason Miyares, its the first Latino elected statewide.

Youngkin’s appeal to independent Democrats has been widely noted.  Rupert Murdoch, who owns both Fox News and The Wall Street Journal, has twice in face-to-face face meetings urged him to declare his candidacy. But at least two steps remain

The first is the Virginia General Assembly election on November 7.  Many Republican donors to Youngkin’s campaign hope his backing can hold the House and flip the Senate there, to enhance his reputation as a candidate who can appeal to MAGA voters in the state.  The idea is to give him a realistic hope of dividing Trump voters disproportionate loyalty on the Republican primary calendar. Filing deadlines for a slew of Republican primaries come soon after that. The decision to declare – or not – will be Youngkin’s to make.

All this is well within the realm of possibility. If Youngkin signs up, the next steps will be the Republican primaries themselves, beginning with the Iowa political caucus on January 15. (Deadlines to get on ballots in South Carolina and Nevada have already passed.) A successful Youngkin candidacy might cause Biden’s support to crumble and lead to wide-open Democratic primaries as well.

Suppose Youngkin still lost the nomination to Trump?  Or stayed out of the race altogether, as Richard Nixon chose to do in 1964?  He could try again in 2028, and, as did Nixon, probably win.  But, in these perilous times, five years is a long very time to wait. EP and Murdoch don’t often agree on much. But the desirability of a Youngkin candidacy is one thing on which we see eye to eye.

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