COUNTERPOINT: Democrats Should Say, 'Help Me, Gavin Newsom, You’re My Only Hope'

AP Photo/Susan Walsh

The Democrats seem to be getting desperate. The partisan lawfare case against Donald Trump got 34 convictions, but it has been a dud, politically speaking. In the national polling averages, Trump seems to have gone down by about a point. But, as I wrote before, Biden needs to be up more than three points in the national average to be assured of winning the battleground states.

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Heading Towards the November Cliff


Speaking of the battleground states, the polling there has largely remained largely unchanged, and non-battleground states have actually gotten better for Trump since his convictions. Certainly, polls in Iowa, Virginia, and Minnesota show movement toward Trump. Finally, the Trump campaign has seen its fundraising skyrocket, while there are rumors that Biden’s refusal to release his own numbers is a sign of trouble.

And all of this is occurring despite the fact that Trump hasn’t spent a red cent in the ad war, and the Democrat forces are heavily outspending the Republican groups overall. This will certainly change soon.

Because of this desperation, the Democrats seem to be doubling down on strategies that didn’t work before in the hopes that this time, they will bear some fruit. The Democrats are continuing to deflect charges that Joe Biden is senile by claiming that Donald Trump has a similar problem. The Biden campaign is running a new $50 million ad campaign focusing on Trump’s convictions. And the Biden campaign also plans to target Donald Trump’s January 6, 2021, actions and the supposed “insurrection” that the Democrats believe Trump led.

I don’t believe that any of this is going to work. While I learned long ago that no campaign is over before election day, I really don’t know what Joe Biden can do, with five months remaining, to change the trajectory of the election. None of the most important issues are moving his way, be it inflation and the economy, the border and the violence it has resulted in, the Gaza situation (and other world chaos), the corruption case against Biden Inc., and, most importantly, his increasing senility. And as we get closer to the election, the GOP spending will inevitably increase.

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However, I do believe that there is something that the Democrats can do to shake up the race and better their position. But it won’t be easy — or popular — with some Democrats. They need to ditch Joe Biden and Kamala Harris and run someone else – presumably someone like Gavin Newsom, the Governor of California.

I know what you are thinking. Just another conspiracy theory thrown out there by a political junkie (which I am) to generate clicks on a political website.  But hear me out.  

Let me restate the situation. The sitting Democrat president is in trouble. The economy is in bad shape. The world is in chaos because of the president’s foreign policies. Crime and violence are rampant on America’s streets. The Democrat Party is bitterly divided, with the left wing of the party strongly protesting the incumbent president. A prominent third-party candidate is running, making a stand in the ideological middle of the two major party candidates.

This doesn’t just describe the situation in 2024. It also describes what happened in two other relatively recent elections, one in 1980 and one in 1968. And these other two elections show contrasting ways to handle the situation.

In 1980, President Jimmy Carter fought off a strong Democrat primary challenger, only to be crushed by a strong, experienced, and well-known Republican opponent, Ronald Reagan, a former movie star and the former governor of California, who had run once before for president (narrowly losing in the primaries in 1976 to former President Gerald Ford, whom Carter then beat in the general). In 1980, none of the negative attacks by Carter worked, and Reagan won nationally by a solid margin – 51 percent to 41 percent; 489 to 49 in the electoral college – with the third-party candidate grabbing almost 7 percent of the vote.

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In 1968, President Lyndon B. Johnson, after being embarrassed in the New Hampshire primary, dramatically announced that he would not run for another term as president. His vice president, Hubert Humphrey, then jumped into the race and won the nomination. In the general election, Humphrey faced another strong, experienced, and well-known Republican opponent, Richard Nixon, the former two-term vice president, who had narrowly lost a close race in 1960 for president. Nixon started with a huge lead in 1968. But as time went on, Humphrey began asserting his independence from President Johnson, and the Nixon polling lead began to evaporate. In his ads, Humphrey stopped labeling himself as "Vice-President Hubert Humphrey," instead calling himself "Democratic candidate Hubert Humphrey." Regarding crime, he pushed back on the “law and order” phrase by Nixon and replaced it with his own formulation of “order and justice.” Most importantly, in the most crucial issue of that year, the Vietnam War, he announced that, unlike President Johnson, he favored a bombing halt in Vietnam, appealing to left-wingers who had been protesting Johnson, and this prompted Johnson to agree to this halt. In 1968, Nixon won, but it was a narrow victory – 43.4 percent to 42.7 percent; 301 to 191 in the electoral college – with 13.5 percent (and 46 electoral votes) going to a third-party conservative Democrat.  

While two elections certainly aren’t enough to be statistically significant, I do think they suggest that the Democrats would do better if Joe Biden did not run for reelection. This is because the Presidential race is always a referendum on the incumbent, and when the situation is bad, the incumbent is in trouble. And indeed, Biden’s major problems, which I mentioned above, would either disappear or be lessened if he was no longer the candidate; especially his senility.  

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Vice President Kamala Harris should be the obvious candidate to replace Biden, as Humphrey replaced Johson. Harris is not elderly and senile. She also would not have Biden’s corruption problem. But inflation and the economy, the border, and Gaza/world chaos would still stick to her, although to less a degree than they do to Biden. However, as her polling indicates, Harris is also widely unpopular, presumably because Biden’s announcement that he chose her because she was a black woman marks her as an affirmative action-like hire, and because she has done nothing to impress her detractors since then, while in office. Indeed, there are reports that she is a toxic boss and that she refuses to put in the hard work to become a good candidate.  Altogether, while Harris is probably better than Biden, she is still not a particularly good candidate.

Which leads me to Gavin Newsom, the Democrat governor of California. Outside of California, which is a safe state and the largest Democrat state, he is largely unknown. But he is good-looking, young, and well-spoken. He is also far more separated from Biden’s problems than is Harris, as he is not even part of the administration. And unlike all other Democrat governors who are potential candidates for president, he clearly was preparing to run this year and has the necessary infrastructure to jump in on a moment’s notice.  


But see: OPINION: Gavin Newsom's Political Career Is Over


If the Democrats were wise, they would find a way to persuade Biden and Harris to step down and Newsom to step up. But they probably can’t, and they probably won’t. What this means is that the Democrats are going to need some luck in 2024 to win the presidential election.

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