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2024 Watch: Youngkin ‘testing the waters’ at major donor retreat

Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s cross-country campaign tour on behalf of fellow Republicans running in November’s elections resumes this week, with a stop Wednesday in New Mexico as the rising GOP star teams up with gubernatorial nominee Mark Ronchetti.

But Youngkin, who’s been in demand on the campaign trail, took time off from his tour on Thursday and Friday, as he gathered with roughly 80 top dollar Republican donors for a two-day gathering at a luxury hotel outside of Charlottesville, Virginia.

An attendee at what was dubbed the “Red Vest Retreat,” which refers to the red fleece vests that the governor often wears, said that Youngkin was repeatedly questioned about a potential 2024 GOP presidential nomination bid. The attendee, who asked to remain anonymous to speak more freely, told Fox News the governor reiterated that he’s focused right now on helping fellow Republicans in this year’s elections, on his 2023 agenda for Virginia, and on flipping the state Senate from blue to red in next year’s elections in Virginia.

But according to the attendee, Youngkin also emphasized the political walk he’s taking, and that while he was not sure where that walk is going to lead, the governor asked the donors to stay with him on his trek. 

IS YOUNGKIN’S 2022 CAMPAIGNIGN A 2024 PRELUDE?

The retreat included panel discussions as well as an address from former House Speaker and 2012 GOP presidential candidate Newt Gringrich, who according to the attendee said that there are three current leaders in the Republican Party — former President Donald Trump, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, and Youngkin.

The retreat, along with Youngkin’s busy itinerary on the campaign trail this summer and autumn, is fueling more speculation that the popular Virginia governor who as a first-time candidate was elected less than a year ago, is gearing up for a possible national campaign.

YOUNGKIN SAYS HIS FIGHT FOR SCHOOLS IS FAR FROM OVER

When asked about a 2024 run, Youngkin told Fox News during a campaign stop in early September in Maine – to help raise money for former Maine Gov. Paul LePage as he runs for his old job – that “we’ll have to see how things pan out.” Youngkin also reiterated that he’s “incredibly flattered by this discussion” and “the fact that my name is in the national mix is pretty overwhelming.”

Looking ahead to next year, when the next presidential race will get underway in earnest, the governor said “I gotta go to work in 2023 and deliver a big agenda in Virginia. And so we’ll have to see how things pan out but that’s where my attention is right now.”

While he’s careful about saying much about 2024 in public, behind the scenes Youngkin has begun to make the moves one needs to make ahead of launching a presidential campaign.

“He’s making the rounds. He’s calling people,” a Republican donor who asked for anonymity to speak more freely told Fox News. “He’s certainly testing the waters and I think he wants to go based on everything I’m hearing.”

Pence returns to Iowa

Former Vice President Mike Pence was back in Iowa on Thursday, where he served as the featured speaker at a prominent Republican family’s annual gathering.

It was the former vice president’s second trip in a month to the state that for a half century has kicked off the presidential nominating calendar, another signal that the Pence is moving towards launching a likely 2024 White House campaign.

PENCE MAKING HIGH-PROFILE STOPS IN IOWA AND NEW HAMPSHIRE

Pence headlined the 15th annual Kaufmann Family Harvest Dinner, held Thursday, Sept. 29, in Wilton, a small town in eastern Iowa. Word of his visit was shared first nationally a week and a half ago. 

Former Vice President Mike Pence headlines the annual Kaufmann Family Harvest Dinner, on Sept. 29, 2022 in Wilton, Iowa. The event attracted Republican officials, politicians,  leaders, and activists.

The gathering was launched by longtime Republican Part of Iowa chairman Jeff Kaufmann during his years as a state lawmaker. The dinner is now hosted by his son, state Rep. Bobby Kaufmann. Money raised at the event — which attracted other Republican state legislative leaders and candidates — will go towards the younger Kaufmann’s 2022 re-election fund.

Pence is no stranger to Iowa. He’s now made five visits to the state since his tenure as vice president came to a close at the end of the Trump administration in January of last year. Pence made a busy two-day swing through the Hawkeye State in August, including a visit to the Iowa State Fair, which is a must-stop for potential or actual White House contenders.

PENCE RETURNS TO NEW HAMPSHIRE TO BOOST NEW GOP SENATE NOMINEE

Pence last month made his fifth trip over the past year and a half to New Hampshire, the state that for a century has held the first primary in the presidential nominating calendar. Pence headlined a fundraiser for former Army Gen. Don Bolduc, who a day earlier captured the GOP Senate nomination in the small but crucial general election battleground state. And in August the former vice president headlined “Politics and Eggs” at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics — another must-stop for White House hopefuls — during a jam-packed swing through the Granite State.

The former vice president, who has been busy this year crisscrossing the country to campaign and help raise money for Republicans running in the 2022 elections, has also made multiple stops since early 2021 in South Carolina, which holds the third contest — and first southern primary — in the Republican presidential nominating calendar.

Pence has told Fox News and other news organizations numerous times when asked about 2024 that after the midterm elections are over, “we’ll do as our family has always done. We’ll reflect and pray and consider where we might next serve.” On Thursday, Pence told reporters “when the time comes after the first of the year, we’ll take time to reflect on how we might serve in the future, the near-term or the long-term.”

Tim Scott to Iowa next Saturday

Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina heads back to Iowa next weekend headline a fundraising event for the state Republican Party.

The trip will spark more speculation that Scott, a rising star in the GOP and the only Black Republican in the Senate, is mulling a potential White House run in 2024.

FIRST ON FOX: TIM SCOTT RELEASES THE FIRST AD OF HIS SENATE RE-ELECTION

Scott will headline an event with Kaufmann on Oct. 8 in Sioux Center, in the solidly red northwestern corner of the Hawkeye State. Word of the event was shared first with Fox News last week. “Tim Scott has been a leading voice for the Republican Party on the national stage. I know Northwest Iowa is excited to hear his story of opportunity and optimism for America’s future,” Kaufmann said in a statement.

An invitation to a Iowa GOP event in Sioux Center on Oct. 8 that will be headlined by Republican Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina

The stop will be Scott’s second in Iowa in a month. He was in Central City, in the eastern portion of the state, in late August, to headline GOP Rep. Ashley Hinson’s annual BBQ Bash. Hinson is facing a potentially difficult re-election in November. And Scott was also in Iowa in June to headline the Iowa GOP’s Cedar Rapids fundraising reception.

The senator has consistently downplayed any talk about a possible 2024 White House run. He told Fox News last year that his “only objective is to be the United States senator for the great state of South Carolina.” But Scott added that the 2022 race will be his last Senate campaign.

Hogan returning to New Hampshire

Republican Gov. Larry Hogan of Maryland returns to New Hampshire on Thursday to headline the latest edition of “Politics and Eggs” at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics.

LARRY HOGAN SAYS HE KNOWS WHY BIDEN KEEPS BLASTING ‘MAGA’ REPUBLICANS

GOP Govs. Larry Hogan of Maryland (right) and Chris Sununu of New Hampshire (center) at a fundraiser for Republican state representatives, on August 30, 2022 in Manchester, N.H.

Hogan’s mulling a potential bid for the 2024 GOP presidential nomination and his participation in the speaking series at Saint Anselm College in Goffstown will generate more buzz about his national ambitions.

Hogan, who is term-limited and cannot run for re-election in blue state Maryland, has been crisscrossing the country in recent months on behalf of fellow Republicans on the ballot in November. Those travels took him twice to New Hampshire this summer, with stops in early July and late August. In between those two trips, he also visited Iowa and stopped by the state fair.

The governor told Fox News in July that he will potentially launch a Republican presidential campaign if he sees “there’s a possible road to victory, that there’s a lane and I have an opportunity.”

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