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The GOP’s ‘Glenn Youngkin Model’ Stalls Out on the Pennsylvania Turnpike

David McCormick loses to Dr. Oz as the donor class’s post-Trump pivot fails.
June 6, 2022
The GOP’s ‘Glenn Youngkin Model’ Stalls Out on the Pennsylvania Turnpike
Dr. Mehmet Oz speaks at the 45th US President Donald J. Trump's 'Save America' rally as he endorsed by Trump for senate, in Greensburg of Pennsylvania, United States on May 6, 2022. (Photo by Tayfun Coskun/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

Last fall, the members of the old guard GOP consultant class and their friends in the conservative media gushed about a new playbook for winning in the post-Trump era without the embarrassing conspiracy-mongering and far-right flirtations that were sullying their brand.

They called their shiny new toy the Glenn Youngkin Model.

This top-of-the-line machine included all the bells and whistles and came with a trunk full of cash for consultant-enriching ad buys. It would provide everything that the DC GOP thought their base voters wanted (school board culture-warring, lib-owning, #winning) paired with the attributes suburban swing voters were looking for (the specter of competence, no embarrassing tweets, a whispered acknowledgment that he doesn’t really believe all the crazy stuff, and the image of a family man who looks good in a tech vest).

The brand wizards behind this new model even went on a media tour to attract fresh clients who might want to procure their services.

Sadly for the GOP admen, the Glenn Youngkin Model stalled out on the Pennsylvania Turnpike late Friday when David McCormick, with his Trump-appointee bride standing by his side, conceded his Senate campaign.  McCormick was edged out by Dr. Mehmet Oz and the knockoff Trump playbook Republican voters have gotten comfortable with.

Tech vests, we hardly knew ye.

“Dave,” as his consultants referred to McCormick with a familiar, everyman touch, was the lab-created replica meant to prove the Glenn Youngkin Model’s hypothesis.

Like Glenn he was a handsome hedge fund CEO. Like Glenn he made enough of a MAGA-friendly pitch to get by. Like Glenn he walked a tightrope when it came to the really kooky election fraud hysteria that might scare off suburban moms. Hell, he even hired Jeff Roe, the GOP It Boy who claimed to have engineered this new prototype.

McCormick was so deft at using his cash to work both sides of the intra-MAGA divide that he brought on despicable white-nationalist Trump administration expats such as Stephen Miller without turning off the globalist Masters of the Universe donors who just want a carried interest tax break and a pal in Washington.

Early in the race his biggest challenger from the right dropped out after being embroiled in scandal and for a moment it seemed like everything was coming up Dave . . . until he actually had to start campaigning for the job.

You see, the one big flaw in the Glenn Youngkin Model is that it was never really road-tested.

Glenn was chosen in a convention, not a primary, so he didn’t have to face the full GOP electorate. Plus his opponents didn’t raise any money to compete with him. And running for state office, rather than a federal office, gave him a bit of cover when he would duck and dip his way around the latest Trump-induced hot-button national issues.

This isn’t to take away from Youngkin’s skills as a candidate or his campaign’s strategy. It’s just observing reality: The context in which Youngkin was running in 2021 was very different from what GOP Senate candidates were going to face during primaries in 2022.

And once the Glenn Youngkin Model faced actual Republican voters and real intra-party competition, its defects were exposed.

McCormick wasn’t capable of answering repeated questions about election fraud and what he would do in Washington should another election challenge arise. His ability to deftly avoid the culture-war issues that turn people off in the suburbs was stunted because he was forced to engage with one Trump-endorsed opponent who actually had money to compete and another upstart grassroots firebrand who was more in touch with the base.

In the end, McCormick came up just short. The model’s defenders might argue that this was evidence that their playbook might still work. And from time to time, in fractured primaries it may. But another way to look at the Pennsylvania race is that the Glenn Youngkin Model earned just under one-third of the vote with the other two-thirds split between MAGA candidates with the biggest share going to the Trump-endorsed Dr. Oz and even-further-out Kathy Barnette. On the same ballot an insane insurrectionist who dresses like a cosplay soldier bested an entire field of super-MAGAs to take the Republican gubernatorial nomination in blowout fashion.

In the end what we have discovered is something that was rather obvious to anyone who was paying attention from the start.

The Glenn Youngkin Model is fragile and can only survive in the most favorable environments. The Republican base smarting from defeat in 2020 might’ve been willing to get on board with it if given no better alternative—but when in 2022 when they have a bevy of options on the lot, they are clearly looking to choose a more . . . muscular product.

Early in the primary season GOP voters have sent a clear message. They don’t want to turn the page. They don’t want to fuse their desires with those of the donor class. They aren’t interested in what the cucked D.C. veterans, the National Review let’s-put-Trump-behind-us types, and Mitch McConnell’s consultants are trying to force-feed them.

They are not looking for a new model. They are still happy with the last one.

Tim Miller

Tim Miller is The Bulwark’s writer-at-large and the author of the best-selling book Why We Did It: A Travelogue from the Republican Road to Hell. He was previously political director for Republican Voters Against Trump and communications director for Jeb Bush 2016.