He'll Be Back: Newsom's Choice Not to Run for President Is Likely Temporary

Santiago Mejia/San Francisco Chronicle via AP, Pool, File

California Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom announced that he would not be a primary challenger to President Joe Biden for the 2024 party nomination, which is welcome news for the time being, as RedState reported.

It’s obvious that Newsom has been a political climber. Everything from how he dodges questions about scandals to using his own recall election as a chance to attack Republicans rather than reflect on his own work shows that he’s not unlike any other politician with a thirst to go from one office to the next. 

As the governor of the nation’s most populous state, there isn’t much further up for him to go besides the Executive Branch. Some former governors take up a cabinet spot or take a shot at running for the White House. Many of the best presidents have been former governors, including California’s own Ronald Reagan. 

If another Republican ends up winning, Newsom will be chomping at the bit from day one. The Democrat has an imaginary feud with the Florida governor, who even challenged him to a debate and ran ads against him in Florida. It was bizarre, petty, and an easy way to distract himself from improving his own state. A new Republican in the White House would act as a perfect foil to Newsom, except that it would be unlikely to play well with voters nationally if that new president is successfully undoing Biden’s damage. 

Still, it’s important to understand the reason why a challenge to Biden was even floated in the first place. The president is unpopular, and questions about his age have grown more prominent as he’s just turned 80. His fitness to serve over the coming years is being doubted, and he’s largely failed to unite (or at least civilize) a deeply polarized nation. His time in office is marked by numerous failures ranging from the Afghanistan withdrawal, irresponsible government spending, and the border crisis. There would be an opening for a primary challenger to Biden, but Newsom has decided that he won’t be that guy.  And he shouldn’t be either, from both his and the nation’s perspective. If he ran against Biden, Newsom would not come across as a team player, which would be a bad look within his own party. 

From the nation’s point of view, the solution to a fire is not to pour gasoline on it. In this case, Newsom would be the gasoline. He would come across as more “presidential” to some, but on matters of policy, he would not be any better equipped to tackle the nation’s challenges than the current administration is. Look no further than Newsom’s willingness to sign off on overly progressive legislation set forth by the California State Legislature’s Democratic supermajority, and his lack of effectiveness on issues such as homelessness, public safety, and wildfire prevention.

When someone looks at gas prices or Biden’s energy policies, one might think Biden is already doing his part to make America California with the help of Vice President Kamala Harris, who used to represent the Golden State in the Senate. 

Maybe that’s why Newsom is bending the knee, at least for now. The fact is that he’s not going anywhere, and he will remain a political force for years to come. 


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