Gov. Glenn Youngkin will travel to Asia next week to meet with political and business leaders, adding more fuel to speculation that the Virginia Republican is considering a run for president.
Youngkin will lead a state delegation on a trade-focused visit that includes stops in Taiwan, Japan and South Korea. The group will meet with Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen in Taipei City, along with a range of unnamed executives and leaders in Tokyo and Seoul, Youngkin’s office said in a press release.
The trip, announced earlier this month, will occur at the same time that Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, seen as former President Donald Trump’s biggest potential challenger for the 2024 GOP nomination, is also set to travel on a trade mission overseas.
Youngkin framed the visit, his first to Asia as governor, as a chance to strengthen his state’s supply chains in the semiconductor, pharmaceutical and automotive industries.
“I’m going to put our best forward to have that foreign direct investment come to Virginia,” Youngkin, a former co-CEO of Carlyle Group, said during an interview on CNBC’s “Squawk Box” on Friday.
The planned six-day international visit, set to kick off Monday, prompted questions about whether he had presidential ambitions. Youngkin did little to extinguish that speculation when CNBC pressed him about his political plans.
“I have a great job and I am very focused on doing it well,” Youngkin said Friday when asked about a Politico report from last month titled, “Why Glenn Youngkin Would Be Crazy Not to Run for President.”
When asked whether it was true or false that there was a 0% chance Youngkin would run for the White House in 2024, the governor replied: “I think that true and false questions are a fool’s errand.”
He added: “I am 100% focused on Virginia’s general assembly races in 2023.”
Youngkin’s office has noted that Virginia is home to five business establishments from from Taiwan, 133 from Japan and 25 from South Korea.
Youngkin, who flipped Virginia red when he won the race for governor in 2021, is one of a handful of Republicans who are being eyed as possible contenders in the 2024 presidential race. Others include former Vice President Mike Pence and former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.
Among the GOP candidates who have officially thrown their hats in the ring, Trump is considered the clear frontrunner. Polls show Trump’s biggest competition is DeSantis, who is expected to announce his presidential plans after his state’s current legislative session ends in May.
DeSantis announced Thursday that he will set off on his own international trip next week, making stops in Japan, South Korea, Israel and the United Kingdom.
The Florida governor quickly rose to prominence in the Republican Party through his high-profile fights on hot-button cultural issues. But he has weathered a torrent of negative press in recent weeks as critics panned his remarks on Ukraine and Trump’s indictment, as well as his recent moves in a bitter feud with Disney. (Youngkin on Friday dodged CNBC’s questions about the Disney-DeSantis fight.)
This week, Trump, who had just pleaded not guilty to dozens of charges of falsifying business records in New York, won a spate of endorsements from Florida Republicans even after DeSantis traveled to Washington, D.C., to court support.
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