A weary Democratic Party turns its eyes to Gavin Newsom

With President Biden’s poll numbers heading into Nixon’s-final-months-in-office territory, including two recent polls from the New York Times and Quinnipiac University showing him at 33 and 31 percent approval, respectively, the Democratic Party knows the 46th president is not the horse to ride to victory in 2024. 

How bad is it? A CNN poll released earlier this week shows 75 percent of Democratic voters don’t want Biden to seek a sequel to this horrible, no good, very bad presidency. 

Inflation is at a four-decade high and approaching 10 percent. We’ve just recorded negative GDP growth for the second consecutive quarter, the common definition of a recession.

Gas prices are still above $4.00 a gallon, on average, while skyrocketing violent crime in major cities and a border that’s anything but secure are dampening many spirits from the Blue Team regarding the prospect of Biden: The Sequel.  

The usual thought process in these situations is to look to the vice president to take the baton from the boss, but Kamala Harris is somehow polling worse than Biden. Her performance regarding her number one job, addressing the crisis on the U.S. Southern border, has been a disaster, with illegal migrant crossings only increasing to unsustainable levels and deadly fentanyl entering the country through Mexico almost unabated. 

Most of the other names being discussed come from the 2020 campaign: Transportation Sec. Pete Buttigieg, Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and former Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-Texas). If the plan is to replace Biden with someone from a field of candidates who couldn’t beat him in 2020, that’s not exactly encouraging. 

A governor has emerged as a possible alternative: Gavin Newsom of California. But Newsom’s appeal isn’t rooted in the one thing that should be valued most by voters: performance. 

Simply put, the Golden State is a mess. Homelessness, crime and drugs are out of control from Los Angeles to San Francisco.

The state’s unemployment rate is the seventh highest in the country. Its poverty rate is higher than any other state. And Newsom presides over a state with the highest income taxes in America: 13.3 percent. 

Citizens and major companies are fleeing for states such as Texas and Utah as a result. Per the Mercury News and a report by moving company United Van Lines

“In 2018-19, 56 percent of moves in California were families fleeing the state. In 2020-21, that figure jumped to nearly 60 percent. The state that was by far the biggest draw of California residents? It was Texas, the destination for more than 7,500 California families during the four years in the study, perhaps little surprise given that Silicon Valley’s tech giants like Oracle, Tesla and Hewlett Packard Enterprise picked up and moved their headquarters there too.” 

No matter: Newsom is infinitely younger and more polished than Biden, and he has much better hair. What’s more, he is willing to fight more aggressively with Republicans such as popular Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, so perhaps that’s considered good enough. 

“California’s example versus Florida? It’s not even close in terms out of the outcome if you care about life, and you care about the economy,” Newsom told “Late Late Show” host James Corden on CBS recently. Corden, like almost every late-night host, is a friend of any Democrat, and therefore didn’t bother to push back on this ludicrous claim. 

But here are the numbers: 

California unemployment: 4.3 percent. 

Florida unemployment: 2.8 percent. 

California income tax rate: 13.3 percent. 

Florida income tax rate: 0.0 percent. 

As for caring about life, the assumption is that Newsom is talking about quality of life. And on that front: California is ranked as the 48th best state to live in, while Florida is ranked ninth. 

But for whatever reason, Newsom is running ads on local Florida stations imploring Floridians to pack up and move to California. If one is a masochist, that sounds like a good idea: Much higher taxes, more homelessness, fewer jobs and a substantially lower quality of life? Sign me up! 

No matter: Many in the media have written off Biden’s 2024 potential and see Newsom as a rising star despite this track record, hence these headlines: 

Politico: “Gavin Newsom jumps onto the national stage and Bidenworld takes notice.”

CNN: “Gavin Newsom just jump-started the 2024 campaign.”

Associated Press: “California’s Newsom goes to Washington; 2024 chatter follows.”

But is Newsom trustworthy? This is a leader, after all, who at the height of COVID-19 in 2020 attended an indoor dinner in wine country with 12 other people, all of whom were unvaccinated (no vaccines were available at the time) and none wore a mask. Newsom apologized, only to break his own draconian mask rules again at the NFC Championship and Super Bowl in Los Angeles earlier this year. 

Newsom claimed he took off his mask only for celebrity photos, but that did not appear to be the case. Here’s where the hypocrisy is rich: Newsom pulled his kids from a summer camp because it wouldn’t enforce a mask policy he broke on multiple occasions. 

Conclusion: The Democratic bench is exceptionally thin. Because if Newsom is considered a serious contender, what record can he run on? 

What exactly does the bumper sticker look like? VOTE NEWSOM: He’ll do for America what he did for California!

Individual states are often referred to as laboratories of democracy. And if the pitch is to have an executive officer of one of the worst states in the country be the leader of all 50 states, great hair and relative youth can’t sugarcoat that ominous option. 

Joe Concha is a media and politics columnist.