OhOne of the strongest candidates for president of the United States in 2024 may be one who is not yet in the running. There is growing evidence that Gavin Newsom, the charismatic and energetic Democratic governor of California, is running something of a shadow campaign against Joe Biden and is ready to step up his campaign if, or when, the incumbent president is voted out.
Several developments in recent days suggest Newsom, who fought to be re-elected a year ago, without really campaigning, is ready to present what was already expected to be a strong candidacy for the presidency in 2028.
Voter polls are raising growing concerns within the Democratic Party that Biden is too old for a second term, the start of which in January 2025 will see him two months after his 82nd birthday if he is re-elected . Some want him to step down.
Newsom, 56, is part of a generation of younger, prominent and popular Democrats expected to emerge from the shadow of the old guard, and has gained an edge over his peers with a series of bold moves that many analysts considered strategic.
Even movie star Arnold Schwarzenegger, himself a former two-term Republican governor of California, thinks a Newsom run for the White House is inevitable.
“I think it’s a no-brainer. Every governor of a big state wants to take that chance,” Schwarzenegger said earlier this year.
This week, Newsom makes a financial donation to a Democratic candidate for mayor of Charleston, South Carolina, 2,800 miles from its governor’s mansion in Sacramento. Participating in political elections in other states is a sure sign of a potential presidential candidate looking to increase his or her visibility on the national stage, experts say.
“South Carolina is one of the early states in the Democratic primary process, and strong results in early states are seen as momentum for later states,” said Eric Schicklerprofessor of political science at the University of California, Berkeley and co-director of its Institute of Government Studies.
“In fact, Biden’s victory in South Carolina is really what propelled him to the top in 2020, so making connections with important politicians in the state can certainly be considered by potential candidates as an important step.”
Newsom has publicly denied having any views on Biden’s job.
“I support our president and have great confidence in his leadership,” he said. told Fox News earlier this year.
But while Schickler believes Newsom’s thinking on the timing of any White House election likely hasn’t changed, he says circumstances have.
“The Democratic Party’s nervousness about Biden has certainly increased. And with him polling behind Donald Trump in many states, his low approval ratings, and young voters’ disenchantment with Biden, all of which has increased interest among many party supporters in an alternative solution. . ,” he said.
That alternative may not be Kamala Harris, who, as vice president, would generally be seen as Biden’s heir apparent. Its public approval is currently as low as that of the president.
Thus, an emerging, often progressive-leaning politician like Newsom, with a wealth of executive and legislative experience and a willingness to counter Republican policies and figures head-on, is an attractive proposition.
“This is not a situation where there are 20, 50 or 100 Democratic leaders who could be considered legitimate. If there were such a group, Newsom has positioned himself pretty well and would be on a very short list with (Michigan Gov.) Gretchen Whitmer and a few others,” Schickler said.
“The problem is the party. There’s just a lot of different voices, a lot of different constituencies, and not really anyone or a group that could authoritatively say, “Oh, it’s Newsom.”
“(But) he would definitely be one of the most serious people. The things he’s doing now help him for 2028, which remains the most likely scenario, and certainly don’t eliminate him if something crazy or unexpected were to happen in the next six months.
Other not-so-subtle clues that Newsom is aiming for higher office include his $10m (£8.2m) investment Earlier this year, as part of a new political action committee designed to spread the Democratic Party’s message in Republican-controlled states, he declared that “authoritarian leaders are directly attacking our freedoms.”
Among the targets is Ron DeSantis, the far-right governor of Florida and hesitant candidate for the Republican nomination in the 2024 presidential election. The two men will debate on November 30 in a highly anticipated debate nationally televised event once billed as a clash between two leading contenders for the White House.
“The idea of DeSantis debating was probably a lot more appealing when it really looked like he could defeat Trump. In this scenario, showing that you can debate him and score a lot of points helps Newsom’s visibility with the party and makes the case that he would be an effective candidate,” Shickler said.
“With DeSantis not doing very well, the benefits to Newson are less, but there are still Democrats who would be happy to see him debate and defeat him. He will only benefit from it, but the benefit will be less.”