What's with all the Newsom POTUS talk?

What's with all the Newsom POTUS talk?
AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez

There certainly seem to be plenty of people in the political media who want to talk about Gavin Newsom as a potential presidential candidate in 2024. He gets asked about it regularly. The San Francisco Chronicle brought this up last week during a meeting they had with him prior to endorsing him for another term as governor. CBS News asked him about it last year. And now, Politico has decided to dive into the analysis, citing those previous two examples and more. Of course, there’s one exception to this seeming parade of people wanting to talk about Gavin Newsom running for president and that would be Gavin Newsom himself. Whenever he’s asked, he uses some variation of the phrase, “100 percent not on my radar.” At what point can people simply be grateful and take no for an answer?

This is not the first time Newsom has brushed off suggestions about running (he did so in 2018 and again last year), but it is a reminder that, if Newsom wanted to run for president, a number of precarious pieces would have to fall perfectly into place. President Joe Biden is angling for a second term, and it’s widely assumed that the VP will take on the role of his Democratic successor whenever he leaves office. Harris could very well run in 2024, 2028 or 2032, depending on the length of the Biden administration and, of course, her own electability.

If Newsom truly has no presidential aspirations, his rhetoric doesn’t show it. The governor is known for bashing Republicans across the country (particularly those in Florida and Texas) and often positions California — and himself — as a national defender of liberal values. He’s not afraid to go after state and federal laws that he deems unsavory, he talks up California’s successes on national daytime television, and he posts contemplative photos of himself reading banned books to needle political opponents.

Politico cites a number of scenarios that could quash a Newsom presidential bid, most of which are valid. The biggest obstacle in the immediate future is obviously Joe Biden. The Democrats may be seriously depressed about Biden’s disastrous approval numbers and the mood of the country, but there is still no serious talk of a primary challenge in 2024 by credible Democratic candidates. So Newsom and any other hopeful Democrats would have to wait until at least 2028 to take their shot.

And that’s true no matter who wins in 2024. If a Republican defeated Joe Biden (or any other Democrat if he changes his mind and says he won’t run again), the Democrats will be lined up for miles. There doesn’t seem to be any sense at this point that Kamala Harris will be the “natural” heir to the top poll position if Biden drops out or loses. There is little doubt that Stacey Abrams likely pictures herself as the natural choice and will expect everyone to dutifully fall in line. For that matter, she probably thinks she would already be president if it weren’t for all of the GOP’s voter suppression laws.

But the Politico analysis does seem to skip over a couple of other factors that seem rather important. Have they forgotten that Newsom had to beat a recall election last year and that he didn’t exactly dominate that race? There were enough people in his own state willing to put their names on a form asking to fire him from his job to vastly exceed the minimum requirement.

Also, Gavin Newsom is cut from the most liberal cloth in the liberal closet. He’s presided over an era of soft-on-crime policies that have wrecked large parts of his state. We are increasingly seeing pushback among Democrats who have realized that these Democratic socialist policies are killing them in the polls and are trying to find a way to gracefully edge away from them without upsetting the Squad too much.

It’s obviously far too early to say, but it seems as if Joe Biden will not have a cakewalk in front of him if he runs again. While he never demonstrated many of these extreme far-left tendencies in his prior incarnations, he definitely saddled up to ride with the House Progressive Caucus in 2020 and he’s been paying a price for it ever since. (Along with the entire country, I might add.) I don’t know who his heir will wind up being, but it would be shocking indeed if Gavin Newsom floated to the top of the bucket.

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