Unless a Republican running for president other than Donald Trump starts to suddenly emerge as a clear and dangerous threat to Joe Biden, Gavin Newsom’s obvious national political aspirations are toast. What is emerging now on the Republican side of the ticket is clearly another Trump nomination.
Newsom and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, for example, are polling as similar distant longshots. That’s horrible for Newsom.
It’s ironic how much DeSantis and Newsom need each other to end the geriatric stranglehold on the nation’s presidential politics. But as Trump’s indictments mount, and both he and Biden get older, their dominance within their respective parties only seems to grow stronger.
DeSantis is fading into a thicket of also-ran candidates after an unremarkable debate performance Aug. 23 in Milwaukee. That makes Newsom a never-ran.
DeSantis began his campaign “with every sort of political and public relations (advantage) that he could possibly have,” said David Metz, a veteran California pollster whose firm has offices in Los Angeles and Oakland. “And he has gotten nowhere.”
In political races, a contest can feel early and undecided until voters have a sense of closure. “It felt like it got late suddenly in the last couple of weeks,” Metz said. “Now it is Trump versus everybody else.”
Nationally, some polling has shown that Trump has edged slightly ahead of Biden. That has not brought panic among Democratic Party leaders to second-guess their strategy. They are betting, and betting big, on what those polls may be silently saying about those who say they are undecided.
“There are probably 43% of voters on each side who are pretty much locked in for the Democratic or Republican nominee,” Metz said. “Even in a race where one candidate is likely to lose, they are still going to be relatively close in the polls.”
In “betting markets,” experts and computer models disregard polling as they predict how the presidential election will ultimately break. In a theoretical repeat match-up of the 2020 candidates, the decided favorite is Biden.
Since Trump lost in November, 2020, from the subsequent Jan. 6 insurrection on the Capitol to his mounting legal troubles, “it is hard to see what has put him in a position where more people would vote for him this time around,” Metz said.
Newsom is doing precisely what a candidate in waiting should do: “As aggressive as he is speaking out nationally, he has done nothing to suggest that he is anything but a surrogate,” Metz said.
The clock is beyond ticking to mount a presidential campaign in the primary season. But the clock is also ticking on Biden, who will be 82 come next November.
Biden is trying to be the last Washington leader of his era to be in power come 2028. And while the oddsmakers are favoring him now, nothing feels like a done deal.
Take, for example, long-time Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky. Approximately 45 seconds of mental lapses, happening within a single month, have placed into question his future leadership position. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who is battling both her health and her deceased husband’s estate for medical cost reimbursements, continues to struggle as she recently fell in her San Francisco home, fortunately causing no serious injury.
The public, for now, doesn’t seem worried. At least in the polls.
Only 36% of Democrats in a recent poll, for example, wanted Newsom to challenge Biden. And that may not be out of love for Newsom. “If you do a poll, and you offer an alternative, (some) will take it,” Metz said.
Is the 2024 presidential election truly going to be a repeat of 2020? Time will tell. Meanwhile, as law enforcement would say, the California governor remains a person of interest.
Tom Philp is a Sacramento Bee columnist. ©2023 The Sacramento Bee. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency.