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Glenn Youngkin Plays the Education Hits Ahead of Virginia Elections
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Glenn Youngkin Plays the Education Hits Ahead of Virginia Elections

Plus: Vulnerable House Republicans are backing McCarthy on impeachment inquiry—for now.

Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin speaks at the grand opening of Amazon HQ2 in Arlington, Virginia, on June 15, 2023. (Amanda Andrade-Rhoades/For The Washington Post via Getty Images)

Happy Wednesday! This is not the kind of headline the White House likes to wake up to, especially when it accompanies a piece from one of the premier mainstream liberal columnists: “President Biden should not run again in 2024.”

Up to Speed

  • House Speaker Kevin McCarthy announced Tuesday he is directing the Republican-led House Judiciary, Ways and Means, and Oversight committees to lead an impeachment inquiry into President Joe Biden, citing concerns over his involvement with his son Hunter’s overseas business dealings while serving as vice president. No concrete evidence has yet emerged to suggest that Biden profited off of or influenced his son’s overseas business dealings.
  • In a statement about the announcement, the White House dismissed the effort. “They have no evidence, so they’re launching the next phase of their evidence-free goose chase simply to throw red meat to the right wing so they can continue baselessly attacking the president to play extreme politics,” said Biden spokesman Ian Sams.
  • John Tuttle, a vice chair of the New York Stock Exchange, is abandoning tentative plans to launch a Republican primary bid for retiring Democratic Sen. Debbie Stabenow’s seat in Michigan, sources familiar with his plans tell The Dispatch. Politico first reported the news. This apparent change in thinking comes after former House Intelligence Chairman Mike Rogers announced his Republican primary bid and former GOP Rep. Peter Meijer launched an exploratory committee in anticipation of a likely announcement. 
  • Ex-hedge fund CEO Dave McCormick is planning to announce later this month a Republican primary bid for Democratic Sen. Bob Casey’s seat in Pennsylvania, Reuters reports. McCormick, who narrowly lost the Pennsylvania GOP’s 2022 Senate primary to TV personality Mehmet Oz last year, has spent the past few months launching a political action committee, hiring staffers, and consolidating support from local GOP leaders. Dispatch Politics obtained a letter that’s being circulated by McCormick ally and Allegheny County Chairman Sam DeMarco urging McCormick to run. The list of signatories includes state GOP Chairman Lawrence Tabas, GOP Reps. Dan Meuser and Mike Kelly, both of Pennsylvania’s RNC committee members, and dozens of GOP county chairs.
  • Vivek Ramaswamy is standing by Bruce Fenton, the New Hampshire co-chair of his presidential campaign, despite him referring to Israel as an “apartheid state,” the New Hampshire Journal reports. “Vivek just spoke to Bruce and told him very directly that he strongly disagrees with him on this issue, and they left it at that,” Ramaswamy campaign spokeswoman Tricia McLaughlin says. Fenton has also expressed conspiratorial views about the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
  • The Washington Post reports that a Democratic candidate in a competitive race for the Virginia House of Delegates “performed sex acts with her husband for a live online audience and encouraged viewers to pay them with ‘tips’ for specific requests.” The live video was recorded and reposted on another site, which the Post says was shared with them by a Republican operative. The candidate, Susanna Gibson, told the paper that the resurfacing of the video was “an illegal invasion of my privacy designed to humiliate me and my family.”

Youngkin the Education Reformer Rides Again

LEESBURG, Virginia—Gov. Glenn Youngkin has returned to the campaign trail with an ambitious effort to lead a Republican takeover of the Virginia General Assembly that, if successful, could cement his position as a future White House contender. And he’s focusing on an issue that carried him to an unlikely victory two years ago: education.

“Children belong to the parents and not the state—and we know that,” Youngkin tells a cheering, standing room-only crowd of approximately 500 grassroots conservatives who gathered Tuesday to hear the governor’s further plans for public education reform. 

The comment comes during a signature, “Parents Matter” town hall meeting, one of half-dozen or so Youngkin has hosted across the commonwealth to boost Republicans running in targeted districts in the November 7 off-year legislative elections.

Youngkin won the governor’s mansion in November 2021 by 2 percentage points, one year after future President Joe Biden defeated then-President Donald Trump 54.1 percent to 44 percent in otherwise perennially blue Virginia. The first-time candidate, a career private equity executive, accomplished that feat by focusing on voter frustration with public schools in the suburbs. Youngkin vowed reforms to address learning loss, mental health, and other challenges for students sparked by the coronavirus pandemic.

But above all, he promised parents they had the final say in their children’s education, not teachers and school administrators. 

Now, Youngkin is hoping that same message, and the commitment to pass conservative legislation constantly stymied by a Democratic-controlled state Senate, will deliver him full control of the Virginia legislature and a freer hand to govern. Here in a church auditorium in Leesburg, a tony exurb outside Washington, the governor listens patiently and takes notes by hand to add to his priority list as several parents rise to voice concerns about their children’s public schools.

What else is on the governor’s checklist if he can neutralize Democratic opposition in Richmond? 

“There are a lot of things that I believe that we need to do,” Youngkin tells reporters in response to a question from The Dispatch. “I want to make sure that social media companies can’t open accounts and bundle our kids’ data. I want to make sure that someone who sells drugs and someone dies is convicted, or at least charged with a felony homicide. And I finally want to make sure … that in fact Virginians have a chance to make decisions for Virginia.” 

On that front, the governor says he wants residents to be able to buy automobiles that are not manufactured according to “California dictates.” He also says he wants the commonwealth to enforce stricter penalties for gun crimes. To do so, Republicans have to flip four Democratic-held seats in the Virginia Senate, out of seven targeted districts, and maintain control of the Virginia House of Delegates in a race that features 10 competitive seats. 

To finance the campaign, Youngkin’s PAC has raised $12 million since March, $3.3 million alone in August. The money is paying for advertising and more than 100 field canvassers, who are knocking on doors and reaching voters via telephone, text, and social media. Wealthy Republican donors unhappy with a 2024 primary field dominated by Trump, among them Youngkin contributors, are monitoring the effort closely, hoping the governor turns his attention to national affairs if he is successful this fall.

For now—for public consumption, at least—Youngkin is playing coy. 

“Elections have consequences,” the governor says as he closes out the town hall in Leesburg. The governor is referring to the impact of local school board contests. Some Republicans are hoping he has something else in mind.

House Republicans Broadly Support McCarthy’s Impeachment Inquiry

If the handful of moderate House Republicans are concerned about the politics of an impeachment inquiry, only a few are saying so publicly. Many of the most vulnerable members of the conference, especially those from districts carried by President Joe Biden in 2020, are publicly backing House Speaker Kevin McCarthy  following his announcement Tuesday that three GOP-led committees will launch a formal inquiry into Biden.

“I’m comfortable with the process as it stands right now,” Rep. Nick LaLota, a New York Republican, tells a large crowd of reporters outside the U.S. Capitol Tuesday evening.

Others are being more cautious. Rep. Don Bacon of Nebraska says while he would have preferred that McCarthy brought an impeachment inquiry to the floor, he likely would have voted against it. “I think the American people want a better, better governance and higher bar. Impeachment should be rare,” Bacon told reporters Tuesday.

Sources tell The Dispatch that McCarthy’s decision to unilaterally launch an impeachment inquiry rather than bring the inquiry to a floor vote, as he’d previously pledged to do, stems from an understanding from GOP leadership that McCarthy doesn’t have enough votes in his own conference to muscle the inquiry through the lower chamber. 

And behind closed doors, McCarthy’s decision to bypass a floor vote and act unilaterally comes as a relief to some of those swing-district House Republicans, who say impeaching the current president might be a tough sell with independent-leaning voters back home unless the House GOP can find concrete evidence that the president engaged in wrongdoing. 

The inquiry will probe concerns that Biden was part of an influence peddling scheme involving his son Hunter’s business dealings while serving as vice president. No concrete evidence has yet emerged that Biden directly profited off of his son’s overseas business dealings or used his vice presidential powers to influence them. But this new investigation will allow the House GOP to seek more testimony and documents involving the Biden family’s finances, including bank records.

The announcement of the inquiry comes amid an intense spending fight on Capitol Hill, where hard-right members of the House Freedom Caucus are putting immense pressure on McCarthy to meet their demands as a government shutdown looms ahead of October 1, when government funding is set to expire. Some of the most strident conservative members of the House GOP are publicly pledging to hold regular votes to oust McCarthy if he doesn’t meet their legislative demands, which include limiting additional aid to Ukraine and bolstering border security.

The most conservative members of the House GOP have been pushing for impeachment for months now. So has former President Donald Trump, who reportedly discussed the looming impeachment inquiry with a number of House Republicans ahead of McCarthy’s official announcement.

A future impeachment trial of Biden is likely dead on arrival in the narrowly Democratic-controlled Senate. Even Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell emphasized in an interview with the New York Times last month that “impeachment ought to be rare.”

“I said two years ago, when we had not one but two impeachments, that once we go down this path it incentivizes the other side to do the same thing,” McConnell said in August.

Notable and Quotable

“I look back to the time when we first started this kind of thing in 2013, and at that point, it was a much clearer fight that we were engaged in. That was the fight over the beginning of Obamacare … I don’t know what the rallying cry will be this time. Is it reductions in spending levels? Is it the border? Is it Ukraine money? Is it impeachment? I’m not sure what it is, but in any of those cases, where could there be a win? I’m not sure.”

—Former House Majority Leader Eric Cantor speaking with Politico about the possibility of a government shutdown amid congressional spending negotiations, September 11, 2023

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David M. Drucker's Headshot

David M. Drucker

David M. Drucker is a senior writer at The Dispatch and is based in Washington, D.C. Prior to joining the company in 2023, he was a senior correspondent for the Washington Examiner. When Drucker is not covering American politics for The Dispatch, he enjoys hanging out with his two boys and listening to his wife's excellent taste in music.

Audrey Fahlberg's Headshot

Audrey Fahlberg

Audrey is a former reporter for The Dispatch.