Governor Newsom wins big in California. Could he be president?

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Yes, of course Governor Gavin Newsom is up for re-election. But after beating his closest competitor by nearly 40 points in the California primary on Tuesday, could he have something higher in mind? Like running for president?

“He would be a very serious candidate if he ran,” said Larry J. Sabato, director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia.

Less than 45 minutes after polls closed on Tuesday, the governor’s post-primary tweets focused on Republicans Across the country “attacking our basic rights as Americans” – not Sen. Brian Dahle, the Lassen County farmer he will face in the general election.

Newsom won the governorship four years ago by the largest margin in California history and is likely heading for another landslide this fall on a little-known Republican, even if his fellow Democrats in the nationwide should be beaten midterm with President Joe. Biden deeply unpopular.

So it’s natural to wonder, given that the Golden State has produced presidents in former Governor Ronald Reagan and former Vice President Richard Nixon, whether Newsom might be a viable candidate for the White House.

Last month, Newsom told the San Francisco Chronicle that he would not challenge Joe Biden for re-election, that Vice President Kamala Harris should be the party’s next presidential candidate and that he intended to complete his term. of governor. But circumstances may still present an opening.

Newsom has shown interest in the national political scene, publicly sparring with his Republican counterparts in Florida and Texas over the handling of the pandemic, abortion and gun restrictions. He recently suggested that Democrats were too timid to respond to the US Supreme Court set to strike down abortion rights.

At 54, Newsom has time to pick an opportune time to run. But it’s hard to imagine a bigger political stage than the one he currently finds himself on as governor of America’s most populous state from which to launch a national campaign. He has already demonstrated his ability to raise the massive sums needed to compete for California’s highest office, with more than $23 million in hand after spending $5 million in the primary.

“He has a fantastic base – 10% of the national population – and huge amounts of money at his disposal,” Sabato said.

So what could get Newsom into the presidential race? First, he would need an opening. The term he is expected to win this fall runs until 2026. Biden has said he will seek re-election in 2024 with Harris again as his running mate.

Harris would be the heir apparent to run after Biden’s second term in 2028, and if she won, she would seek re-election in 2032. She and Newsom have been political allies with many of the same backers, making a direct race against his problem even if he wanted to try.

“I don’t even want to entertain anyone other than Biden and Harris,” said Amelia Ashley Ward, publisher of San Francisco’s oldest black newspaper, the Sun-Reporter, and an ardent Harris supporter, noting the ” support for women, women of color, African American women.

“As long as President Biden and Vice President Harris are in the picture, we keep our eyes on that award,” she said. “We haven’t come this far to back down.”

Realistically, for Newsom to even consider a run in two years, Biden and Harris would likely have to decline to run — something that would be extraordinary in terms of President Lyndon Johnson’s decision not to seek re-election in 1968 amid growing outrage over the Vietnam War. .

SAN LEANDRO, CA – SEPTEMBER 8: Vice President Kamala Harris and California Governor Gavin Newsom wave to supporters after Vice President Harris speaks at an anti-recall rally in San Leandro, California, Wednesday, Sept. 8, 2021. (Anda Chu/Bay Area News Group)

But that hasn’t stopped people from speculating about the possibility, including in a Washington Post analysis in April that listed Newsom among potential Democratic candidates who could enter the fray.

It was based on a YouGov Yahoo! News Survey in late February in which only 22% said Biden should seek re-election. Among Democrats and Democrats, Harris and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders were the preferred alternative for 14% each, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg for 9%, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren for 8%, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio- Cortez of New York for 6% and Newsom for only 4%.

Washington Post analyst Aaron Blake said that despite Newsom’s landslide election victories, “how he would relate to voters outside the Golden State is a big question” because he “practically exudes ‘West Coast liberal’ “”.

Sabato didn’t see that as a deal-breaker, noting that in today’s primaries, candidates who appeal to party bases tend to win the nomination.

“He’s not too left-wing for people nominating candidates,” Sabato said.

Newsom isn’t well known nationally, Sabato said, but that could work in his favor.

“If anything, that’s a plus,” Sabato said. “He doesn’t have too many downsides. He can shape his own image.

But here in the Golden State, Claremont McKenna College political science professor Jack Pitney isn’t so optimistic about Newsom’s presidential action. He attributes his landslide victories more to weak Republican rivals than to Newsom’s appeal to voters.

Pitney also noted that incumbent Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti — arguably with a more compelling biography as a Rhodes Scholar with Hispanic and Jewish heritage and service in the U.S. Navy — explored a 2020 presidential run and has concluded that it was not in the cards for him.

“It’s hard to see what Newsom brings that would make him stand out in the Democratic realm,” Pitney said.

Republican gubernatorial candidate State Sen. Brian Dahle, right, kisses his wife, Congresswoman Megan Dahle, during election night in Sacramento, Calif., Tuesday, June 7, 2022. Dahle will face the governor Democrat Gavin Newsom in the November general election.  (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)
Republican gubernatorial candidate State Sen. Brian Dahle, right, kisses his wife, Congresswoman Megan Dahle, during election night in Sacramento, Calif., Tuesday, June 7, 2022. Dahle will face the governor democrat. Gavin Newsom in the November general election. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

Dahle, who topped a list of 25 competitors for the chance to challenge Newsom in November, portrays the governor as an elite liberal out of touch with ordinary Californians suffering from high taxes and costs and water shortages while Newsom’s criminal justice reforms leave the city streets to vagabonds. and thieves.

But Californians have heard this for years. Longtime political analyst Dan Schnur said Newsom is “a likely national candidate at some point in the future.”

“An easy re-election gives him the opportunity to road test some messaging he might use in front of Democratic voters in other states,” Schnur said. “George W. Bush took advantage of his re-election as governor of Texas in 1998 to try out his ‘compassionate conservative’ message before running for president. Newsom is already doing the same.

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