WASHINGTON — Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin will travel to Texas next month to be the guest of honor at a reception and dinner hosted by a billionaire Republican political donor, as speculation grows about the term-limited governor’s national political ambitions.
On the same April trip, Youngkin will speak at George W. Bush’s presidential library, part of an event billed as a “Forum on Leadership: Answering the Call.” Such events are often an opportunity for prospective candidates to lay out policy visions before potential donors.
While in Texas, Youngkin will also be hosted by GOP megadonor Robert Rowling, the owner of the Omni hotel chain, and his wife, Terry, according to a copy of the invitation obtained by NBC News. Forbes places Rowling’s net worth at $5.5 billion.
This dinner was first reported by The Washington Post.
The Texas trip comes as Youngkin, term-limited by Virginia law, has been building his national profile as he weighs a possible 2024 presidential run. In the 2022 midterms, he campaigned for Republican candidates in key battleground states, including Georgia and Arizona. Last week he participated in a nationally televised town hall on CNN focused on education — the signature issue of his 2021 gubernatorial campaign.
In January, Youngkin told NBC News he was “overwhelmingly humbled” by talk of a presidential campaign, but he remained focused on Virginia. That remains the case, according to a source familiar with Youngkin’s thinking on the issue, but who also noted that in 2016, the last open GOP primary, candidates announced well into the summer, and that candidates who entered the race early, like Jeb Bush and Scott Walker, quickly faded from contention.
Youngkin has barely registered in early 2024 polling, but his victory in a purple state, and his ability to significantly self-fund a national campaign, may leave him a lane in a potentially crowded GOP field.
The Dallas trip could further introduce Youngkin to Texas’ fertile GOP fundraising grounds — especially with no Texas candidate currently expected to enter the race.
Rowling alone was a prodigious supporter of Republican campaigns in the 2022 midterms — giving half a million dollars to the main House GOP super PAC, and a quarter million to the McConnell-aligned Senate Leadership Fund.