(Bloomberg) -- Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin said voters are correct to be concerned about the risk of a recession, noting that his state is planning for one early next year.

“We’ve seen a pullback materially and so these fears of recession, I think, are well grounded,” Youngkin said Monday in an interview with Bloomberg News. 

Youngkin said the most pressing issue for Americans is the impact of inflation on everyday expenses, which he pinned on President Joe Biden’s policies.

“The challenge is rising cost of living. It’s just clear now over the course of the past three years of the Biden economy we have seen inflation really run away from a lot of folks,” Youngkin said. “Sixty percent of Americans are living paycheck to paycheck and I hear it.” 

Youngkin, 57, is viewed as a rising star in the Republican party, and a potential GOP candidate for the presidency in 2028. He won the governorship in 2021 appealing to moderate, suburban voters. However, Republicans lost control of the state legislature in November under his watch.

Voters have consistently cited worries about high prices and the possibility of a recession as a top concern in the 2024 election year. Strong employment data has not been enough to ward off concerns about Biden’s handling of the economy.

“We’re watching our economy, and we’re debating whether we’re going to have a recession or not,” he said.

“Because we now have interest rates we’ve never seen before because they had to be raised in order to combat the inflation that he unleashed,” he said. “We were going to unleash inflation. He didn’t seem to recognize that.”

Americans are generally downbeat on the economy as inflation lingers, especially for essentials like groceries and rent. While price pressures have eased substantially since peaking last year, consumers are now battling higher borrowing rates on top of elevated costs, which is expected to weigh on spending into the new year.

However, economists have been growing more optimistic that consumers will continue to spend, helping the country avert a recession. The Federal Reserve will start cutting interest rates sometime in 2024, but the key question is why. In a Bloomberg survey of economists this month, nearly three-quarters said cuts would be in response to cooling inflation, while 28% said they’d be due to the start of a downturn.

Youngkin disputed the notion that it was a mistake for Republicans to focus on a 15-week abortion ban in this year’s elections, in which Virginia Democrats maintained their control of the state Senate and flipped the state House. 

“No, it was not a mistake,” he said, adding, “I firmly believe that one of the challenges that we have had as Republicans is we haven’t been clear on what we’re going to do.”

Youngkin has been viewed as a Republican leader who could push the party back to traditional conservativism — perhaps even challenging former President Donald Trump. Whatever energy there was behind a 2024 Youngkin presidential bid fizzled as filing deadlines passed and Trump maintained his grip on Republican primary voters. 

Youngkin declined to endorse any candidate to be his party’s presidential nominee, and declined to say he was considering a run in 2028. 

“I firmly believe that Americans, Republicans, independents, and a load of Democrats, understand that we can’t, as a nation, afford another four years of Joe Biden.”

Virginia governors are limited to one four-year term. Youngkin’s ends in 2026.

--With assistance from Gregory Korte and Molly Smith.

(Updates thoughout)

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