eSantis, who at one point was the closest challenger to former President Donald Trump, has fallen behind Trump by as many as 50 points, recent polls found. Before launching his primary, DeSantis polled just 15 points behind Trump in February. However, a September poll found him down by 47 points, while others have placed him in third place behind political newcomer Vivek Ramaswamy.
“DeSantis has faltered and failed to meet expectations and donors know it,” former Ronald Reagan campaign manager Ed Rollins told CBS News’ Robert Costa. “No one has a real opening right now, but people are trying to figure out what to do.”
DeSantis’s donors have reportedly questioned the strength of his 2024 candidacy and whether he should hold off on his presidential ambitions until 2028. Now, prominent GOP donors are eyeing Youngkin as a potential alternative to Trump, Costa reported.
Youngkin will host a two-day “Red Vest Retreat” next month with an official focus on helping Republicans win control of Virginia’s General Assembly. However, donors intend to use the event as “an opportunity for them to try to push, if not shove, Youngkin into the Republican presidential race,” according to Costa.
Billionaire Youngkin donor Thomas Peterffy said Youngkin “appears to be leaving the door open” to a presidential run.
Youngkin caused rumors of a late entry into the GOP presidential primary field when he said in May he would not run for president “this year.” “And if Republicans win in Virginia, maybe we can talk him into it. He obviously wants to see what emerges, what the state of play is,” Peterffy said before assuring Costa that “the money would be there.”
As Costa reported:
Donors and anti-Trump Republicans have been fixated on Youngkin for two years, since his 2021 election impressed them for how he was able to win support from Trump voters while keeping Trump himself at a distance. They also know a direct challenge to Trump would be politically brutal — and that late entries are logistically near-impossible.
Nevertheless, the anti-Trump Republicans carry on, in text messages and emails, and over meals at five-star hotels, talking to friends and megadonors about the need to be prepared to help Youngkin ramp up a robust national campaign. They want to be ready.
The various Youngkin 2024 theories go something like this: If Virginia’s state legislature goes Republican on Nov. 7, Youngkin could claim he flipped a state that Joe Biden won in 2020. If the governor then signaled interest in exploring a run, supporters could rush to collect signatures for him to get on the ballot in delegate-rich states, many of which have December deadlines. If he got in, he’d make a play for Iowa and build a campaign with an eye on staying in until the convention.
Even former Trump Administration attorney general Bill Barr encouraged Youngkin to enter the race.
“I’m for whoever can beat Trump in the primary and, while I still think some of the current candidates can do this, I’d welcome Youngkin putting his oar in,” Barr told Costa. “If the governor indicated he’d to it, I believe he would draw serious support and be a strong candidate.“
Media tycoon Rupert Murdoch, who was once set on DeSantis, has reportedly reportedly encouraged Youngkin to enter the GOP primary during multiple in-person meetings.
“The search for other people is very real,” Trump’s former national security adviser John Bolton told Costa.✪