If Biden doesn’t run in 2024 and Harris does, Newsom might not object to her. There are practical reasons for this. Harris, despite her slump in the 2020 presidential campaign, would have the weight of her office and the historicity of her position as the first woman and first black vice president behind her.
Newsom, just 54 and poised to win a second term as governor, could have a better opening in 2028. And he waited before, dropping his first gubernatorial campaign in 2009, months before the primary once it became clear that Brown was going to win.
But it’s not clear to people who know Newsom that he would defer to Harris in an open presidential primary strictly out of personal loyalty. A state Democratic strategist who knows them both said, “Polite and civil in public, but there’s no love lost there.” Another described their relationship as “tense and highly competitive”.
If Newsom were to run against Harris in 2024 or 2028, a prominent Democratic caucus in California said, “the incumbent vice president by definition” would be problematic for him because of the stature of her office.
“But Gavin’s donors love her better than her donors like her,” he said.
When I asked the bundler, who is familiar with both of their operations, if these donors aren’t the same, with Harris and Newsom sharing a support base in San Francisco, he said, “Okay. That’s what I’m trying to say.
About Newsom, the bundler said, “He does what you do. Be a successful two-term governor of a great state, raise a ton of money, get known on national issues people look up to, and throw your hat in the ring. There’s no reason why he shouldn’t. At best, he becomes president. At worst, he was appointed secretary of a department.
The real obstacle for Newsom may not be so much Harris as the state they both come from. In its advertising in Florida and on billboards in other red states, Newsom offers California as an alternative – an abortion-rights haven or, in the case of Announcement in Florida, a state “where we still believe in freedom”. In this way, he follows a long tradition of Californian exceptionalism embraced by state governors on both sides. Then-Republican Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger in his 2007 State of the State address called California “the modern equivalent of the ancient city-states of Athens and Sparta”, with the means not only to “lead California into the future”, but to “Show the nation and the world how to get there.” Newsom, in his own State of the State address in March, said that amid “mighty forces and loud voices stoking fear and seeking to divide us,” there is “a better way – a way Californian – to move forward”. And it’s hard to spend time with a Californian politician without him volunteering, as Newsom did during his remarks onstage in Austin, that California, if it were a nation, would have the fifth-largest economy. world.
Elizabeth Ashford, who was a senior adviser in the offices of Brown and Schwarzenegger and chief of staff to Harris when she was state attorney general, described Newsom’s positioning of California against the governors of Texas and Florida as “part of a longer tradition of California governors making sure we export, in a sense, our culture to the rest of the country,” recognizing that California “is a physical place, but it’s also an emotional destination and cultural”.
But that’s not the case for everyone, or even most Americans. The national electorate is not as liberal as that of California. The cost of living there is astronomical. Homelessness is an epidemic, and the state’s K-12 public schools rank among the lowest in the nation.