Biden’s understudy, Gavin Newsom, waits in the wings

Biden’s understudy, Gavin Newsom, waits in the wings

Matt Bai writes:

Newsom has insisted that he supports President Biden and isn’t running some kind of shadow campaign. Which is true, I guess, in the sense that there doesn’t seem to be anything shadowy about it.

In just the past few months, Newsom, a vigorous 56, has met with Chinese President Xi Jinping at the Great Hall of the People (looking conspicuously presidential in one of those awkward upholstered chairs); traveled to Israel to comfort survivors of the Hamas attack; and met with a bevy of world leaders at the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation Leaders’ Summit in his hometown of San Francisco.

He also jumped to the forefront on regulating artificial intelligence, directing state agencies to look at how they use the technology and how to control it — a not-so-subtle move to cast himself as a futuristic thinker, reminiscent of a young Gary Hart or Bill Clinton.

All of which prompted Sen. John Fetterman (D-Pa.) to publicly say what a lot of irritated Democrats have been privately grumbling about — that Newsom was running against Biden but didn’t have the “guts” to declare it.

Because, apparently, having guts in the Democrat Party right now means mindlessly cheerleading for the president and hoping, despite all available data and the ominous mood, that everything is going to work out just fine.

Here’s the reality: Whether you like Biden or not (I do, and I’m pretty sure Newsom does, too), the Democratic Party right now is taking a shockingly reckless gamble with the country’s future. The oldest president in history is about to become an even older nominee, backstopped by a vice president whom barely a third of the country likes. For the next year, we will all be one major health issue, or one small slip on the stairs, from inviting a lying autocrat back to the White House.

The Democratic answer to all of this has been some version of: “Don’t worry, we’ve got this.” Which might sound familiar to you, since it’s precisely what Hillary Clinton’s strategists told everyone in 2016, when they tried, mostly with success, to shut down support for anyone who dared to run against her. That worked out great.

The party this time had plenty of strong potential candidates — governors such as Michigan’s Gretchen Whitmer, senators such as Georgia’s Raphael G. Warnock, Cabinet secretaries such as Pete Buttigieg and Gina Raimondo. But all of them stood down and pretended there was nothing weird about renominating an 81-year-old man with a 39 percent approval rating. Among party members in good standing, only an obscure congressman, Dean Phillips, has offered token resistance.

But here comes Newsom, who near as I can tell is the only serious Democrat willing to do the responsible thing. Newsom isn’t challenging Biden outright or seeking to upend the party, which is fine. He’s just setting himself up as a clear option, should an option be needed before the convention.

As the governor of one of the nation’s largest states, he’s got every right to position himself as a fallback. Someone has to. [Continue reading…]

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