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Glenn Youngkin, political novice rewrites the Republican playbook

As Glenn Youngkin took to the stage at a crowded lodge ballroom within the early hours of Wednesday morning, the 1969 basic rock hit “Spirit within the Sky” blasted via the loudspeakers.

Carrying a navy blue go well with and crimson tie, the Republicans’ man of the second greeted supporters and clapped in time with the music, pausing to level one finger to the heavens and mouth the lyrics: “you realize it’s a should, gotta have a good friend in Jesus”.

Minutes earlier, the Related Press had projected the 54-year-old political newcomer because the winner of Virginia’s hotly contested governor’s race. The previous co-chief government of the personal fairness large Carlyle Group defeated veteran Democratic fundraiser Terry McAuliffe by a 2.5-point margin in a state Joe Biden had gained by greater than 10 factors a 12 months earlier.

The outcomes despatched shockwaves via the Democratic get together — and buoyed the spirits of Republicans who fretted about their get together’s future with Donald Trump out of the White Home. Youngkin had efficiently balanced a political tightrope to safe Trump’s base of rural conservative supporters whereas profitable over independents in prosperous suburbs outdoors Washington, DC.

Main Republicans mentioned Youngkin, who campaigned on a platform of decrease taxes, extra money for legislation enforcement and an emphasis on mother or father involvement in public colleges, supplied their get together a playbook for subsequent 12 months’s midterm elections, when management of Congress can be up for grabs. Conservative columnist Ross Douthat took the argument one step additional, tweeting: “I’ll simply say it: Glenn Youngkin ought to severely think about operating for president in 2024.”

It was a precipitous political rise for a person who lower than 18 months earlier had left the highest job at Carlyle after dropping an influence battle along with his co-chief government Kewsong Lee. The Republican donor had by no means earlier than run for public workplace having spent the primary three a long time of his profession climbing the company ladder.

Youngkin grew up in Virginia Seashore, a resort metropolis that can be dwelling to a number of navy bases. Cultivating his everyman picture on the marketing campaign path, he talked about his first ever job as a dishwasher at a neighborhood diner. The avid basketball participant attended Rice College in Houston, Texas, on a sports activities scholarship, incomes a level in engineering. After his victory on Wednesday, Youngkin signed basketballs with a Sharpie earlier than tossing them into the gang.

Youngkin moved on to Harvard Enterprise College and joined consulting group McKinsey after commencement. He married his spouse, Suzanne, with whom he has 4 youngsters. In 1995, he was recruited to Carlyle by the agency’s co-founder, David Rubenstein, and spent the following quarter-century charting its rise from start-up to powerhouse — amassing a internet price of roughly $470m, based on Forbes.

He opened Carlyle’s London places of work within the early 2000s, serving to to launch many European-based funds earlier than returning to the US. After the 2008 monetary disaster, he shifted his focus to broader technique, changing into chief working officer and later co-president. In 2017, he was named co-chief government alongside Lee who, insiders say, outmanoeuvred the mild-mannered Youngkin.

Former colleagues present blended opinions of their ex-boss. One described Youngkin as a talented operational knowledgeable and a “nice particular person”. One other referred to as him the “poster baby of the good American . . . however he’ll stab you within the again if he sees a bonus”.

Months after leaving Carlyle, in July 2020, Youngkin launched his bid for Virginia governor, utilizing his sizeable wealth to rent political consultants and produce a slick PR marketing campaign that depicted a down-to-earth dad preaching “widespread sense” conservatism. The one-time government swapped his fits for fleece gilets and khaki trousers and clinched his get together’s nomination in Could.

The evangelical Christian, who colleagues say saved his spiritual convictions carefully guarded at work, started talking brazenly of his religion, sharing how his beliefs deepened whereas attending Holy Trinity Brompton in London. Youngkin and his spouse later arrange a parish modelled after HTB in McLean, Virginia, referred to as Holy Trinity Church.

His personal fairness background and nation club-style drew comparisons to Mitt Romney, who was an government at Bain earlier than coming into Republican politics. However his opponent McAuliffe branded him “Donald Trump in khakis”, arguing Youngkin’s reasonable persona hid extra hardline views.

The political novice usually stumbled as he sought to flee Trump’s shadow. In a single occasion, he declined to reply an interviewer’s query about whether or not he would have voted to certify the election had he been a member of Congress on January 6, when violent mobs of Trump supporters stormed the US Capitol. Following backlash, Youngkin modified his tune, telling a neighborhood TV community he “completely” would have voted to certify.

Analysts say Youngkin’s hazy messaging labored to his benefit when cobbling collectively a coalition of voters to make him the primary Republican elected Virginia governor in additional than a decade. “Youngkin appears friendlier, nicer, extra regular. Who is aware of if he actually is?” says Larry Sabato of the College of Virginia Heart for Politics. “We all know nothing about him, actually. That’s what [his campaign] needed: tabula rasa. You write on that slate something you need.”

Extra reporting by Kaye Wiggins and Antoine Gara

lauren.fedor@ft.com

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