There is no shortage of speculation that Gavin Newsom is looking for his chance to run for president. The only thing that stands in his way is Joe Biden. As long as Biden is running, Newsom is not.
But as we all know, there’s also a significant amount of concern within the Democratic Party about Biden. His approval ratings are terrible, while general election match-up polling against Trump is too close for comfort, and frankly, Trump is leading by healthy margins in several polls. Voters are concerned about Biden’s cognitive problems, which are only bound to get worse as the campaign progresses.
While Kamala Harris is essentially the heir apparent to Joe Biden, if there’s anything Democrats can agree on it’s that she’d be an even worse candidate to run in 2024 than Joe. At this point, the only way to keep Kamala Harris from becoming the Democratic Party nominee is for there to be an open primary. But as sitting vice president, she’d be a de facto incumbent. So how does the party give a leg up to Anyone But Kamala? Groom someone else for the job.
There have long been rumors that Biden was grooming Pete Buttigieg to be his successor. However, Buttigieg has been such a disaster as Transportation Secretary that it’s hard to see how he could be viable. Has Biden chosen a new successor, and is it Gavin Newsom? It’s starting to look that way.
Publicly, Newsom is all in for Biden and has emerged as a key surrogate, but that doesn’t change the fact that he has no control over whether Biden ultimately can no longer pretend he has what it takes to continue his campaign. And Newsom’s loyalty today could pay dividends later if Biden does exit the race.
Biden is sending Gavin Newsom to attend the GOP debate Wednesday evening to help push Biden’s talking points in the spin room afterward. Such a move serves only one purpose: to increase Newsom’s national profile — something Newsom is very much interested in doing as he lays the foundation of a shadow campaign for the presidency, ready to shine in the light in the event that Biden doesn’t end up staying in the race.
Think about it: Newsom previously challenged Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.) to a debate, and that debate is going to happen at the end of November. Trump voters (a sizable portion of the GOP electorate) will inevitably pan DeSantis’s performance, regardless of how it plays out, just to undermine his campaign. So in reality, Newsom is the only person who stands to benefit from this debate, even if DeSantis humiliates Newsom.
I’ve never been convinced that Biden ever wanted Kamala Harris on his ticket, and we’ve known for some time that there have been tensions between the Biden and Harris teams in the White House. It’s too late to replace Kamala on the ticket, but it’s not too late to elevate another Democrat to give him a chance at the nomination in an open primary.
For his part, Newsom is already acting like someone who is thinking about a national campaign. Despite an overwhelmingly radical record on issues like abortion and transgenderism, he recently vetoed a bill that would have given parents who “affirm” a child’s gender identity preference in custody battles. So the signs are all there that Biden gave up on Buttigieg and sees Newsom as the man who could carry the torch.