As We Predicted, Gavin Newsom's Schtick Isn't Going Over Well With Democrats in Red States

California Gov. Gavin Newsom and his wife, Jennifer, on a tour of red states for his new PAC, Campaign for Democracy. CREDIT: Jennifer Siebel Newsom/Twitter

In columns over the years, and on countless media appearances in which I’m asked for my opinion about various California Democrats seeking higher office, I’ve consistently made the observation that California Democrats have a very tough time getting traction outside of the state because they’ve never been challenged on their positions or been held accountable by the media in any way. They don’t even need to give campaign speeches or long-form interviews because at this point they don’t need to. So, like Kamala Harris, once the rest of the country gets to see what they’re all about, they’re not fans.

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Gavin Newsom is the latest California political superstar to suffer this fate, and he hasn’t even declared for POTUS yet. Over the last week or so he’s been traveling to red states, acting like the savior who’ll be bringing enlightenment to the rubes stuck there. Unsurprisingly, for anyone who’s ever lived outside a narcissistic bubble, that doesn’t go over well, especially in the South.

An article in Friday’s Politico lays it all out: James Carville calls Newsom’s tour a stunt; Nikki Fried says he should stay home; a leading Texas activist worries about Newsom’s condescending manner; and Newsom insiders share that Newsom is obsessed with reading “right wing” news sites.

Let’s get to it!

We must start with this description:

[L]ike a California cabernet left out on a humid afternoon, the Newsom brand may not travel all that well. Montgomery is a long way from Sacramento, and Newsom’s political machine has only been tested in friendly territory, where his party enjoys a supermajority. Many Democrats will be glad to spend his money, but it’s far less clear that they’ll want his advice or his obsessive focus on the culture-war contrasts between Democratic and Republican states.

[T]his strategy bets that the message of a California governor — who made his fortune in fine wines and has deep ties to elite San Franciscans like Nancy Pelosi — can resonate elsewhere.

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Just like everyone else, Florida Democrats bristle at Newsom’s pissing match with DeSantis:

State Party Chair Nikki Fried said she’d welcome extra resources “to highlight the failures of Ron DeSantis,” but there are limits. She also said Newsom’s favorite California-versus-Florida framing, which resonates with some West Coast liberals, would backfire in DeSantis’ backyard.

“What would not be helpful is a comparison between the two states,” Fried said. “Florida is very different from California.”

And Newsom’s extremely progressive and combative style can be a problem in states where the sensitivities are a bit different. Matt Angle of the Lone Star Project, a PAC committed to defeating Republicans, says:

Democrats [in Texas] need to show the “the contrast between responsible mainstream Democrats and irresponsible, extreme Republicans,” he said — not “more ‘turn Texas blue’ pep rallies.”

“The resources are needed, and there is some smart money that gets spent in Texas from outside,” Angle said. “But Texans, even Democrats, resent people coming in and acting like they’re bringing fire to cavemen.”

Another Southerner, a legendary Democrat strategist, has doubts:

“It just strikes me as a kind of a stunt,” said James Carville, a Democratic political operative with deep experience in the South. “We’re not going to carry Oklahoma anyway, or Kentucky for that matter.”

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He’s right, and especially if Newsom uses the same schtick in those states that he does in California. Democrats in North Carolina are making the same mistakes, as more and more transplants fill the urban areas with their radically progressive policies and tendencies. Having lived in the Tar Heel State for 20 years, I know that North Carolinians of any political stripe violently resent outsiders moving to the state and telling them how to run it or how they can do things better. What we’re seeing in that state currently, with the override of Gov. Roy Cooper’s veto on a bill eliminating pistol permits and Rep. Tricia Cotham (who comes from a prominent Democrat family) moving to the Republican party, are examples of what happens when Newsom’s brand of in-your-face, condescending progressivism takes hold in a Southern state.

Will Newsom or his advisers heed any of these warnings? He’s obsessed with conservative media and has an inferiority complex, and his advisers dwell in his bubble – and don’t want to get fired – so, that’s not very likely.

The governor is known to spend hours a day absorbing far-right media and often laments conservatives’ ability to dominate the narrative. “Somehow, Democrats are constantly on the defense,” he wrote in a recent campaign email. “… That has to end. We have to flip the ‘red state freedom’ narrative on its head.”

While Newsom’s advisers comprise the dominant campaign team in California, they have little experience with the politics of conservative America.

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And therein lies the problem. Those of us in California are very happy to have the rest of America find out just how unbearable and, frankly, not very smart, Gavin Newsom is.

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