By MICHELLE L. PRICE
NEW YORK (AP) — A top political adviser to Glenn Youngkin insisted on Monday that there’s room for the Virginia governor to enter the Republican presidential primary a day after the aide said the campaign was a “two-person race between Donald Trump and Ron DeSantis.”
Jeff Roe, a strategist for Youngkin, told The Associated Press that his weekend comments on Fox News were not a signal of Youngkin’s intentions or future prospects.
“The current field and the current race shows two strong front-running candidates, but politics changes and a year is a lifetime in politics,” Roe said Monday.
He called Youngkin “a unicorn in American politics,” the first Republican in more than a decade to be elected governor of Virginia, and only a year after Trump lost there to Democrat Joe Biden by 10 percentage points.
If Youngkin decides to run for president, “he will make a lane for himself,” Roe said. “He doesn’t need a lane created for him.”
Youngkin has been seen as a potential presidential candidate but has repeatedly demurred about whether he will run. In a separate interview on Fox News Channel on Sunday morning, Youngkin said that he was “very focused on Virginia,” where the legislative session just ended and budget negotiations are underway.
“My eyes right now are really on Virginia and we’ve got a lot of good work to do here,” Youngkin said.
On the same network, Roe said during an appearance on “Fox News Sunday” that the field of 2024 GOP candidates will be very small because of Trump’s and DeSantis’ strength and looming Republican National Committee rules requiring candidates to show broad support by meeting donor and polling thresholds in order to participate in debates.
“The reality is, this is a two-person race between Donald Trump and Ron DeSantis,” Roe said.
Seeming to close the door, he added, “There’s simply no room for a third or fourth, or even fifth person in this race.”
But he said on Monday that he was not broadcasting any advice to Youngkin.
“The governor makes his decisions based on his ability to win, on his ability to make a difference and what his heart leads him to do,” Roe said. “He doesn’t make decisions like that based on politics or political consultants or hacks.”
“There’s a time and a place for decisions like this to be made,” he said.
Asked for comment about Roe’s remarks, Youngkin political aide Becca Glover did not directly address them. Instead, she said: “The governor is always flattered to have his name come up in conversations about 2024, especially given that he’s now a respected leader within the party, not just a new face.”
Speculation about a possible bid by Youngkin began after he captured national attention by defeating Democratic former Gov. Terry McAuliffe in 2021.
He’s taken other steps that have added to the chatter, including traveling the country stumping for other Republican candidates for governor last year, hosting campaign-style policy events within the state and throwing a private event for high-profile donors.
An adviser to Youngkin confirmed he is scheduled to meet in New York City this week with Republican donors and political figures. The meetings were first reported by The New York Times.
Youngkin is a wealthy former private-equity executive who loaned his 2021 campaign $20 million and has business-world contacts he’d be able to draw on for campaign contributions.
Associated Press writer Sarah Rankin in Richmond, Virginia, contributed to this report.