I’ve gotta stop doing these posts about prediction markets. It’s the dumbest, least nutritious political content there is.
But it’s so tasty.
Congratulations to Elizabeth Warren on falling just a few points short of Hillary Clinton.
Here’s the problem for Newsom and every other ambitious Democratic governor: What’s an angle of attack against Harris that *can’t* be spun by her allies as racist or sexist in nature? If he announces that he’s running because she seems hapless and overmatched by her responsibilities, that criticism would, uh, resonate with many. But Team Harris would counter that any insinuation that a black woman official is underqualified or incompetent is demeaning and driven by prejudice. What does Newsom say to that? Even if he prevails in a primary, how many votes would he lose among women and African-American voters that fall because of it?
The same goes for the other common argument against Harris, that she’s not a good enough retail politician to prevail in a national election, particularly against a charismatic opponent like Trump. That would also be attacked as sexist, if not racist; remember how offended Hillary fans were in 2008 when Obama called her “likable enough” at a primary. Clinton has been attacked as unlikable for decades — again, an opinion that many voters share. But her defenders dismiss it as a trope that’s often applied to woman candidates to present them as unrelatable and therefore unelectable to the public.
So if Newsom challenges Harris, he may end up in a lose-lose situation. Either he wins the primary and the accusations of prejudice hobble him in the general or he loses the primary and is saddled with a bad reputation that’ll spoil any chance he has of running in 2028.
Which leaves us with an irony. It was the Republican Party, not the Democratic Party, that was supposed to have a prohibitive favorite for the 2024 nomination in the person of Trump. But with each passing day, it’s more likely that Trump will face competition from the likes of big names like Ron DeSantis and Mike Pence. Meanwhile, although Harris is widely viewed as a weak hand for Democrats to play, she may end up running unchallenged if Biden doesn’t seek another term simply because running afoul of progressive identity politics by challenging her is too daunting for her rivals.
The one somewhat neutral criticism Newsom could make of her is that she’s tainted by Biden’s poor polling, fairly or not, and so the party needs a fresh start with its next nominee. But many Democrats would bristle at that too, as it would amount to declaring in advance that either Biden or Harris is too radioactive to be elected. That would be a starkly discouraging note from the governor of the country’s biggest state ahead of a general election. Parties don’t like when their A-listers are running around telling voters that they can’t win.
And is Newsom really that much more electable than Harris? He’s a better retail politician (a low bar) but (a) he’s a liberal culture warrior at a moment when Americans are worried about liberal cultural excess and (b) he’s on the hook for everything Americans don’t like about California to a degree that even Harris, a California native herself, isn’t. Some of Newsom’s fans have touted a recent YouGov poll as evidence that he’s stronger against Trump and even DeSantis than she is, but I’m inclined to think these results prove the opposite:
The poll found Biden leading Trump 42% to 40% and DeSantis 41% to 37%. It found Harris tied with Trump 41% to 41%, but matched Biden’s margin against DeSantis at 41% to 37%.
Finally, it found Newsom beating Trump 40% to 39% and DeSantis 39% to 36%. In every single matchup polled, there are lots of undecided voters. The smallest number of undecided voters is seen in the Harris-Trump matchup (18%), and the largest number is seen in Newsom vs. DeSantis (25%).
He barely outperforms Harris against Trump and actually underperforms her against DeSantis even though Harris’s favorability rating is currently below 39 percent. Harris has universal name recognition at this point too; voters have already formed opinions about her. A lesser-known figure like Newsom should be outperforming her simply because he’s a more “generic Democrat” to most voters. But he isn’t. And imagine how un-generic he would become once the GOP really went to work on him, running ads like this:
— Trey Radel (@treyradel) July 6, 2022
“Newsom and Harris both have many problems if they are looking at a 2024 run,” one elections analyst told the California Globe last week. “Newsom has a lot of baggage from being Governor, and he would have to explain to voters nationally why California is where it is with things like the homeless and housing crises’, not to mention having to explain the major recall effort and election to the American people, who will automatically see that as negative.”
Exit question: Could he run and win — the primary, at least — without offending Harris supporters simply by presenting himself as the most progressive candidate in the field? “He could likely go to the primary debate stage and declare he has delivered more progressive results than the other candidates—perhaps including the administration of his fellow California and embattled vice president,” writes Fred Lucas. By 2024, though, I suspect Democrats nationally will feel terror at the thought of their presidential nominee running as a loud-and-proud cultural leftist. They need to claw back Hispanic voters and rural whites. Is Gavin Newsom the guy to do that?