During a Q&A session at an event in California hosted by the Milken Institute, an economic think tank, Youngkin, a Republican, responded "no" when he was asked whether he had plans to get out on the presidential campaign trail later "this year." His aides later told NBC News that his response was specifically about this year, not the 2024 presidential race.
“I haven’t written a book, and I’m not in Iowa. I’m spending time representing Virginia this year,” Youngkin said when he was pressed by the moderator, Wall Street Journal editor-at-large Gerard Baker, at Monday's event.
In response to a request for comment, a spokesperson said Youngkin he was commenting on his 2023 plans.
"I would refer you to the governor’s original comments and the question, which directly asked about this year,” Macaulay Porter said in an email.
Other Youngkin aides said not to count Youngkin out for 2024 just yet.
An aide said the moderator “was clearly asking about this year, and the governor was answering with that in mind.”
Another aide emphasized that Youngkin, who is term-limited as governor, has said many times that he is “focused only on Virginia through the elections.”
Elections in Virginia are scheduled for Nov. 7 — well into the Republican presidential debate season and just a few months before the nominating contests begin.
Youngkin has offered varying responses when he has been asked about when he might announce any 2024 plans, initially saying he was “focused on the legislative session.” That was followed by his focus “on the budget.” Now, Youngkin says he is focused on state-level elections in Virginia, where he wants Republicans to flip the Senate and hold the House.
In a speech Monday night at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California, Youngkin made no mention of his earlier remarks or his intentions about a potential 2024 presidential bid. In a 30-minute talk, Youngkin discussed the future of the Republican Party, saying the GOP has “a big tent, and we’re filling it.”
The field of GOP candidates continues to grow, with former President Donald Trump as the front-runner. Nikki Haley, the former South Carolina governor who was Trump’s United Nations ambassador, launched her presidential campaign in February, and former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson declared his bid for the Republican nomination last month.
Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina, another likely contender, launched a presidential exploratory committee last month and said Sunday he will make a “major announcement” this month. Former Vice President Mike Pence said he is likely to decide about entering the GOP primaries “well before late June,” while Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is set to jump into the race this month, NBC News has reported.