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Glenn Youngkin Was a Traditional Republican. Then He Became a Culture Warrior.

glenn youngkin

Story and photo courtesy of The New York Times.

As he runs for governor of Virginia, Mr. Youngkin has built a coalition, as one prominent conservative described it, of Trump voters and angry parents.

For months as he campaigned for governor of Virginia, Glenn Youngkin tried to sound a lot like the kind of Republican who dominated the party back in 2009 — the last time a Republican was elected to statewide office.

He avoided discussion of divisive social issues in favor of praise of free markets and job creators, and conservative activists knew very little about him or what he believed as a result.

“He was on nobody’s radar screen,” said John Fredericks, a radio host who was chairman of Donald J. Trump’s presidential campaigns in Virginia in 2016 and 2020.

In the final days before the election on Tuesday, many Republicans say they still have no idea what Mr. Youngkin really believes. But they have cheered him on regardless, after he took a hard-right turn and began promoting the causes that are animating conservatives and supporters of the former president, from the debate over teaching the impact of racism to transgender rights in schools.

To Mr. Youngkin’s critics, his culture warrior persona is cynical and disingenuous — just the kind of transactional decision that a career investment manager with a fortune estimated at close to $400 million would make to win.

But to his Republican supporters, whether or not it’s an act isn’t really the point.

As long as Mr. Youngkin is saying what they want to hear and signaling what they understand he cannot say out loud — running on the issue of “election integrity,” for instance, rather than wholeheartedly accepting Mr. Trump’s lies about election fraud in 2020 — many conservatives see his campaign as providing a template for how to delicately embrace Trumpism in blue states.

“What he’s done is he’s danced on the edge of a knife for seven months,” said Mr. Fredericks, who initially backed a more overtly pro-Trump candidate before Mr. Youngkin won the Republican nomination. “But he’s built a coalition that is very formidable — Trump voters and angry parents.” He added, “I think Trump supporters understand there really is no time for internal squabbling or hurt feelings. They understand the stakes of this election are enormous.”

Mr. Youngkin’s Republican detractors, however, see an opportunistic politician pandering to the party’s base.

Read the full report from The New York Times.