Q&A of the Day – Who is the Most “Electable” GOP Presidential Candidate?

Q&A of the Day – Who is the Most “Electable” GOP Presidential Candidate?  

Each day I feature a listener question sent by one of these methods.   

Email: brianmudd@iheartmedia.com  

Social: @brianmuddradio 

iHeartRadio: Use the Talkback feature – the microphone button on our station’s page in the iHeart app.    

Today’s Entry: Brian – I'd like your thoughts on something. It seems to me that in the limited polling that’s included Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin, that he’s the most electable Republican. Early on this year it appeared to be DeSantis but now he’s performing as bad or worse than Trump with women and I don’t see how that changes given that his issues stem from policy decisions (namely six-week abortion ban in Florida). I don’t really hear people talking about electability and that concerns me. Biden must be beaten next year. If it's possible that Newsom could still jump in the Democrats race, do you think Youngkin might jump in the GOP race and carry the torch DeSantis was expected to carry in the primary? 

Bottom Line: Interesting questions for sure, and I have a feeling one poll which came out last week in particular prompted this note. On Thursday, a VCU poll of Virginians found their Governor Glenn Youngkin, who not only won his current post in a huge upset a couple of years ago, but who is also exceedingly popular within that state – would present the best opportunity to bring Virginia back to Republicans in the 2024 Presidential election. Virginia hasn’t been won by a Republican in a presidential contest since George W. Bush carried the state in 2004 and is larger than other key swing states like Arizona and Wisconsin – representing the potential to considerably change the map and the math in next year’s election cycle, if it were to be carried by a Republican in a close race. The Virginia poll showed Trump trailing Biden by 3-points in Virginia, DeSantis tied with Biden, and Youngkin with a 7-point advantage. A potential ten-point swing state swing between Trump and Youngkin and 7-point swing from DeSantis to Youngkin, hasn’t been lost on donors either.  

Not-so-coincidently, following the VCU poll there were some big-time donor donations which flowed to the campaign of a candidate who isn’t in the race. Glenn Youngkin’s PAC notably took in $1 million on Friday from one of Palm Beaches’ most prominent residents, billionaire Thomas Petterfly. That’s notable for two reasons. One because Youngkin isn’t in the race and two because Petterfly had been a DeSantis donor earlier in this cycle. If DeSantis’ money begins to dry up while it begins flowing towards Youngkin – might it have the potential to cause him to be a late entrant in the race? With the first GOP Presidential debate in just two and a half weeks, and former President Donald Trump an overwhelming favorite to win the nomination at this stage of the race, there’s a feeling that if it’s going to happen, the time is now.  

In Republican primary circles there are really two dates that matter most for all candidates not named Trump. The first is the qualifying deadline two weeks from today for the first Presidential debate, the second is what effectively amounts to a drop-dead date of October 16th. Nevada has the earliest deadline for presidential contenders to qualify for ballot inclusion in their caucus next year – which is October 16th. It’s implausible to think that a GOP challenger to Trump could begin to miss qualifying deadlines for state ballots and to retain any chance of winning. So effectively there’s about a nine-week window in which candidates could enter the race, that’s true on both sides. Again though, this first debate feels especially important for GOP contenders this cycle. From a point of practicality, there’s really only room for one Trump challenger in this race, if they’re to retain any realistic chance of carrying the nomination through the primary process. Even then, with Trump consistently polling above 50%, it would still a massive uphill battle for that candidate. One thing which might color Youngkin’s perspective is that he’s performing better in Virginia in a presidential race, than if he were to run for senate. There’s the potential for an interesting next couple of weeks in the GOP race leading up to the debate...including watching for what candidates are able to qualify – for example, Mike Pence still hasn’t. As for the “electability” question that’s been raised... 

The listener who posed today’s question is clearly focused on the perceived electability of a Republican presidential candidate next year. The apparent fact of the matter thus far is that most Republican primary voters aren’t. In contextual polling in the early going this cycle Republican voters have favored “shared values” over “electability” by a 58% to 42% margin. When you see Trump averaging 53% support in national polls, it’s clear that he’s the “shared values” candidate. Is it possible that there’s a shift in the primary electorate towards perceived electability? Yes, the margin is close enough that if 8-10% of the “shared values” voters favored electability by the time January rolls around, it could have the potential to alter the current trajectory of the race. The question is if there are enough current Trump supporters who aren’t set in their support to make that a potential reality. Most Trump supporters polled are consistently with him all the way. 

But back to where we started, what will Youngkin do? Earlier this year he said he didn’t intend to run “this year”. But with non-Trump GOP donors and voters growing desperate for an alternative to Trump after DeSantis’ disappointing campaign to date, it’s possible if unlikely, he could make a late entrance into this race. But if he’s going to do this – it really does feel like it’s got to be go time pretty much immediately and within the next nine weeks definitively.  

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