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Why Gavin Newsom Could Challenge Joe Biden in 2024

By Gage Skidmore. Governor Gavin Newsom speaking with attendees at the 2019 California Democratic Party State Convention at the George R. Moscone Convention Center in San Francisco, California.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom is going on a red state tour and launched a $10 million ad campaign boasting about how awesome his state is.

It is a trolling campaign that could launch him forward as a 2024 contender. President Joe Biden’s two other longshot opponents for the Democratic nomination are polling surprisingly well, with almost one-third of the vote combined. That could create an opening.

No one paying attention believes California is a desirable spot to relocate. The state’s population has plummeted as residents are fleeing what’s fast becoming a third-world country packed with poverty and homelessness, an oligarchy of tech billionaires and Hollywood stars on the other end–and very little in between. 

Remarkably, Newsom doesn’t seem to know that. He’s betting there are enough ideologues on the Left that aren’t aware either–and would be so caught up in assorted social issues and taken aback by his rather presidential look, that he could be a 2024 contender. 

He hasn’t challenged President Joe Biden in the Democratic primary just yet. But it’s a rare thing for governors to go on national tours. 

In the case of Newsom, he’s going into the belly of the beast, red states such as Alabama, Arkansas, Mississippi, and Florida, doing events for his Campaign for Democracy initiative. Not that he’ll collect votes in those states. But in claiming Republicans are imposing “authoritarian” policies–he’s further raising his national profile. 

Of course, he should be addressing the vast problems of his own state rather than trolling red state governors. But unfortunately, the electorate on both sides seem to love trolls. 

Why Gavin Newsom Could Run

Recent history says it’s virtually impossible to beat an incumbent president in a primary, even weak ones like Jimmy Carter in 1980. 

But Joe Biden seems uniquely weak, not just in job performance but also as the first octogenarian to seek the office. 

Robert F. Kennedy Jr., the son of a former attorney general and nephew of a former president, is challenging Biden and has 19% of support from Democrats, according to a Fox News Poll. Mystical guru Marianne Williamson is 9%. Combined, that’s almost one-third of the vote. 

A USA Today/Suffolk University poll a few days earlier showed Kennedy with 14% and Williamson at 5%. That’s less, but still an impressive start against a sitting president. 

Neither could win the nomination, but keeping Biden below 70% in his own party would seem to create an opening for a viable Democrat to enter. For that matter, a CNBC poll found 70% of Americans don’t want Biden to run again. More important for this context, 57% of Democrats wish he wouldn’t run again.

Plenty of Democrats were waiting in the wings just in case Biden decided not to run, but Newsom is sort of transparent about it with his ad campaign. 

Joe Biden Has Problems

It’s not just the polling. Biden’s own re-election campaign has created an opening. The lackluster campaign announcement was three minutes of saying MAGA bad, and vague allusions to diversity, abortion and freedom. But there was no articulation about what Biden accomplished and why the country would be better off with four more years. 

If Kennedy could break 25% in polling (maybe even a consistent 20% across several polls) this might be enough to prompt another ambitious Democrat into the field. 

Newsom has already boasted about how he defeated Trumpism in the California recall election, which actually worked in his favor. 

Donald Trump as a nominal edge (0.5%) over Biden the Real Clear Politics polling average. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis does a little better, beating Biden by 1.6% in the RCP average. The thought of another Trump victory could cause panic among Democrats. 

After laying the groundwork and planting stories in Politico, Axios. and The Washington Post about concerns Biden can’t make it through another campaign, Gavin Newsom could then selflessly step up and offer himself as a candidate for his party’s nomination as the only defense against Trumpism. MSNBC might eat it right up.

No, America doesn’t want to turn into California. But many progressives–at least the ones that don’t live there–think it’s an ideal place. 

Newsom is independently wealthy and has ready access to Hollywood and Silicon Valley donors that are leery about Biden. That’s something other potential challengers, such as Sens. Amy Klobuchar or Elizabeth Warren don’t have. 

Recall that donors panicked in 2019 about whether Biden could make it through the primary and pushed Mike Bloomberg to run as a candidate viable enough to defeat Trump in 2020. 

Yeah, look how that turned out. But big donors rarely learn from past mistakes. In some ways, the Biden re-election campaign itself is an outgrowth of panic that Vice President Kamala Harris would lose to Trump, and probably badly.

If neither seems particularly strong against Trump—and even weak in a Democratic primary—Newsom seems the Democrat with the audacity to challenge a sitting president.

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Barbara Joanna Lucas is a writer and researcher in Northern Virginia. She has been a healthcare professional, political blogger, is a proud dog mom, and news junkie. Follow her on Twitter @BasiaJL.

Barbara Joanna Lucas is a writer and researcher in Northern Virginia. She has been a healthcare professional, political blogger, is a proud dog mom, and news junkie. Follow her on Twitter @BasiaJL.