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Can Gavin Newsom Beat Trump?

Speculation about the CA governor replacing Biden overlooks his major drawbacks.

by | Jul 6, 2024 | Articles, Opinion, Politics

By Paul R. Brian

There’s no doubt that California Governor Gavin Newsom is a skilled politician and orator. He knows how to play the game and has steadily climbed his way up the ladder of Golden State politics. But how would that play on the national stage? Speculation that a slick political operator like Newsom could step in to replace Joe Biden overlooks three key facts. First let’s look at why Newsom is even being potentially floated as a substitute

Why the California Model?

California is a Democrat stronghold, with the largest statewide party in the nation and over 10 million members in the state. Newsom rode to power on the back of that state-level apparatus and its massive donor money and networks. The idea of nominating Newsom relies on his youth, political skill and the fact that the Democrats sorely lack a deep field.

The California model would seek to double down on the state power the Democrats already hold on the West Coast and spread it throughout the rest of the country, extrapolating their state-level dominance to national-level victory. The formula for victory would be to use Newsom’s media messaging skills, combined with his network of rich donors. At the same time, a campaign to draft the governor would have to downplay the fact that California has the highest housing costs in the continental United States and has experienced a net loss of residents for the past four years as they flee to red states like Texas.

The Golden State’s bloated budget, high taxes, burgeoning homelessness and crumbling infrastructure reflect all the darker big government impulses of the Democratic party: take an existing problem and worsen it with spending and fake compassion, then spend more to “fix” the worsened problem that the bureaucracy created. Rinse and repeat, seize more power. Create a true fiscal nightmare.

The Problem with Newsom

Of course, to get this bloated big government even more firmly entrenched and re-elected requires a bland or at least electable figurehead who can present the right image of competence. Being head of a state that’s become truly bad for business is not a strong selling point, and that’s just for starters. The problem with Gavin Newsom is threefold. Firstly, getting into power in the state of California is much different than the whole union, and secondly, Newsom would be without a large portion of funds already raised by Team Biden which can only be accessed by President Biden himself or VP Kamala Harris. Thirdly, Newsom’s track record in California is likely to play terribly on the national stage, especially in swing states where voters are put off by the weaponization of divisive social issues and perceptions of sneering leftism and hypocrisy. Newsom’s championing of the California high-speed rail project, which is over $80 billion in debt without any track laid yet is another example of the kinds of issues which will bite him badly on the national campaign trail. As Allyssia Finley observes in the Wall Street Journal:

“His high-handed insistence on imposing his supposedly superior values on everyone else – from transgender lessons in kindergarten to electric-vehicle mandates – would likely repel more voters in swing states than Mr. Trump’s boorish bombast.”

So why would some Democratic insiders even consider putting Newsom forward?

Democratic Party Doldrums

The Democratic field has rarely been as shallow as it is in the past several years. The selection of Harris as VP has become a widespread joke and Biden’s struggles with memory, energy and elocution have amplified the perception that he’s unfit to serve, along with a decidedly poor debate performance in his first 2024 match-up with Trump. For his part, Newsom says he would “never” abandon his support for Biden as the Democratic nominee and claims nobody in his party would. One way or another, however, it’s clear that Newsom’s long-term goal is the Oval Office. As John Cox noted in The Hill:

“He went so far during his most recent reelection campaign in 2022 to purchase billboards in other states, to poke at governors who might be future opponents in a presidential race. More recently, he moved $10 million from his campaign accounts to a national effort to support candidates in red and swing states that will be important in a future presidential election.”

It’s clear that Newsom wants to tangle on the national stage, and he’s even picked fights with Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and Texas Governor Greg Abbott on several occasions. The odds are stacked against Newsom becoming the Democratic nominee in place of Biden, and apart from Ronald Reagan’s success in going from Golden State governor to the presidency, Jerry Brown and Pete Wilson failed, and the track to doing so has not been well established.

Newsom is highly unlikely to be the nominee and would have a tough time beating Trump even if he were: but the fact that his name is even being floated around the media and Democratic circles shows just how weak the incumbent party is, despite holding so much federal and state power.

By Paul R. Brian

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