Some of the biggest Republican donors in the country will converge next month at the historic Cavalier Hotel in Virginia Beach for a two-day meeting to rally behind Gov. Glenn Youngkin.The closed gathering, named the “Red Vest Retreat” after the fleece Youngkin wore during his 2021 campaign, will begin Oct. 17 and be focused, officially, on the Republican effort to win full control of the General Assembly in Virginia’s upcoming elections.But unofficially, several donors tell me, it will be an opportunity for them to try to push, if not shove, Youngkin into the Republican presidential race.
Others say they will be busy prodding Youngkin and his allies in phone calls from afar.“He appears to be leaving the door open,” Thomas Peterffy, a billionaire who has already given millions of dollars to Youngkin’s PAC, told me this week. “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.
“The money would be there,” Peterffy assured me.
Drafting Youngkin as a last-minute addition to the sclerotic Republican presidential field is something that has lingered for months as a donor fantasy — a whispered, can-you-imagine gambit rarely meriting much discussion because there has been widespread hope that somebody, anybody, would gain traction against former president Donald Trump. But now, fantasy talk of an audacious, break-the-glass moment for the anti-Trump faction has morphed into not-so-quiet consideration.
Youngkin did win an election in a competitive state, but that was a fluke in the pre-Dobbs period when Republicans still had the traditional our-party advantage. And if Republican primary voters still cared about Youngkin’s signature issue — CRITICAL QUEER WOKE RACE THEORY OOGA BOOGA — DeSantis’s campaign wouldn’t be pushing up the orange trees.
But hey, better Republican donors burn their money on this than something else.