Newsom 2024? Really?

There are many ways to measure the Democrats’ political problems these days. One is to look at who party officials think should be their candidate in 2024. Obama chief of staff-turned-mild irritant to the Biden White House David Axelrod was the latest Democratic big beast to float Gavin Newsom as an alternative to Biden in 2024.

“If the president were not to run, it’s hard to imagine that Newsom would not be sorely tempted to enter the race,” said Axelrod Wednesday. “Newsom is young and politically muscular, which may be just what the market will be seeking post-Biden,” he added.

It’s not just Axelrod. Hard as it may be to believe, Gav-mentum appears to be a real thing. As has been obvious for some time now, the field of potential 2024 candidates is a more than a little underwhelming. And the Newsom ’24 chatter is largely a result of the alternatives’ weaknesses, not the California governor’s strengths. In recent weeks, Newsom has sought to position himself as a national Democratic talisman and advocate for a more pugnacious brand of liberalism. A sort of anti-DeSantis if you will. “Where the hell is my party?” he asked after the leaked draft Supreme Court abortion decision last month. In a trollish gimmick, Newsom signed up to Truth Social last week. In a Twitter post, he explained that he would be joining Trump’s preferred social network to “call out Republican lies.” Adding: “This could get… interesting.” (Needless to say, it didn’t get that interesting.)

This is the point at which journalistic good practice dictates I point out that Biden’s spokespeople are clear that the president plans to run again. And that Newsom’s people claim he has “sub-zero” interest in a White House bid. Let’s see how long that lasts.

The DeSantis parallel is instructive. Both DeSantis and Newsom have an appetite for using their powers as governors of large states to wade into national culture wars: the Florida governor scraps with Disney, his West Coast counterpart advocates for blue states to take an assertive and proactive role in offering safe haven for red-state residents if they lose their constitutional right to an abortion.

But the DeSantis comparison reveals the problem with the Newsom 2024 talk. Yes, both governors take national stands on contentious issues, but only one of them is doing a good job of running his state. DeSantis’s Florida is an undeniable success story. Americans are voting with their feet: leaving Newsom’s California and arriving in the Sunshine State. And when they vote at the ballot box later this year, Floridians are expected to opt for DeSantis by a healthy margin after a tight vote in 2018.

Meanwhile, in California’s cities, a backlash against the kind of progressivism for which Newsom stands for is well underway. Deep in blue territory, the default Democratic approach to crime, homelessness, addiction and more is being shown to be political kryptonite. Newsom will win re-election in his very blue state later this year, but what will that really demonstrate about his national appeal?

Democrats claim to have learnt their lessons from the mistakes of the last few years. But when you see serious talk of Newsom as their best bet in 2024, you have to wonder whether or not the message has really sunk in.

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The fall and fall of Andrew Gillum

With Ron DeSantis’s national rise showing no signs of slowing (see todayvs poll watch for evidence), we may one day look back on the impossibly close 2018 Florida gubernatorial race as a coin-toss event on which so much that followed was contingent. But alongside the potential national significance of DeSantis’s razor-tight victory is a striking comparison in the personal fortunes of the two candidates in that race. While Ron DeSantis is flying high — popular in his own state, cruising to re-election and a conservative hero around the country — things have gone from bad to worse for the man he beat by just 30,000 votes.

In 2020 police found Andrew Gillum inebriated in a Miami hotel room with a male escort who had overdosed on crystal meth. After the incident, Gillum, who is married to a woman, entered rehab for alcoholism and came out as bisexual. Now Gillum has been charged with conspiracy and nineteen counts of fraud over fundraising and campaign spending during Gillum’s time as mayor of Tallahassee and gubernatorial candidate. Gillum denies any wrongdoing and claims the case is “not legal, it is political.” Whatever the outcome, it’s hard to think of a more vertiginous fall from grace for a politician than that of this one-time Democratic rising star.

Congress cool on Biden’s gas tax

Biden’s federal gas tax proposal is — as discussed in yesterday’s diary — a bad idea. And it may be one that never makes it into law. The president’s call for Congress to act was hardly met with an enthusiastic response. The Wall Street Journal reports that lawmakers aren’t likely to assent to Biden’s request. Chuck Schumer, who usually flocks to bad policies like a moth to a flame, was noncommittal. As was Nancy Pelosi, who said she would “see where the consensus lies on the path forward.”

What you should be reading today

John Steele Gordon: Here comes the next recession
David J. Garrow: The rise of gay Washington
Billy McMorris: The real reason for Biden’s war on Juul
Jack Shafer, Politico: The media revolution that everyone is sleeping on
Joe Pompeo, Vanity Fair: DeSantis fever spreads across Murdoch’s empire
Robert VerBruggen, City Journal: Sizing up the gun bill

Poll watch

President Biden job approval
Approve: 39.8 percent
Disapprove: 55.9 percent
Net approval: -16.1 (RCP Average)

First-choice candidate among likely New Hampshire GOP primary voters
October 2021
Donald Trump: 43 percent
Ron DeSantis: 18 percent
Mike Pence: 4 percent
Nikki Haley: 6 percent

June 2022
Donald Trump: 37 percent
Ron DeSantis: 39 percent
Mike Pence: 9 percent
Nikki Haley: 6 percent (UNH)

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