Even though the November election is just four months away, Gov. Gavin Newsom will be spending more and more time out of the state in New Hampshire, South Carolina, Iowa, Michigan, Texas, and other primary and caucus states. He’s getting increasing attention as the top Democratic hopeful—even if President Joe Biden runs again, as seems unlikely.
Challenging a sitting president, if it’s necessary, is not unprecedented. Ronald Reagan nearly displaced President Ford in 1976. And Sen. Teddy Kennedy (D-Mass.) almost did so against President Carter in 1980.
California has numerous problems that ought to be debated in an election. But because California is so heavily Democratic, and Newsom just spread around a $97.5 billion surplus, Republican challenger Brian Dahle will get little traction even if Newsom spent the entire rest of the year campaigning for the Oval Office. Voters won’t hear much about how to deal with the state’s continuing $1 trillion in unfunded liabilities, rising crime, a schools system that produced a literacy rate 50th in the nation, and the country’s highest poverty level.
It’s true there have been some rumblings of revolution. San Francisco in February recalled three leftist School Board members—and earlier this month gave the boot to radical District Attorney Chesa Boudin. But Newsom has been careful not to appear too radical. He never joined the “defund the police” chorus.
And mounting a localized campaign against a couple of people is different from organizing a statewide campaign. Indeed, less than a year ago such a campaign was waged against Newsom, ending with the recall attempt roundly rejected by voters.
But these days the rest of America does not look so kindly on California politicians. Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan were different because they were the top Cold Warriors of the times before they became president. Indeed, Nixon was so anti-communist it allowed his “Nixon Goes to China” moment, which has become a cliché for someone whose skills in a certain area let him negotiate compromise. I remember the time well and always have thought Nixon in 1972 went too far accommodating the mass murderer Mao. But that’s another story.
Reagan branded the Soviet Union the “Evil Empire” and built up U.S. defenses. That allowed him to negotiate from a position of strength with Soviet Dictator Mikhail Gorbachev the endgame of the Cold War. Like Nixon, he was popular in the Michigan of my youth.
By contrast, I remember Gov. Jerry Brown was derided in my home state as a “flake” during his runs for president in 1976 and 1980. Gritty Chicago Tribune columnist Mike Royko dubbed him “Gov. Moonbeam” because Jerry wanted California to start its own rocket program.
I was in California for Brown’s 1992 bid. He actually advanced a great idea, a flat income tax reform designed by Arthur Laffer, the supply-side economist who helped with Reagan’s tax cuts and the Proposition 13 tax cut in California. Too bad he didn’t push a similar reform when he again became governor in 2011. Anyway, back in 1992 my relatives in the Great Lake State derided Brown again and said I should move back to the tundra.
Although the auto industry has declined sharply, it’s still the heart of Michigan’s economy. The city I grew up in, Wayne, has one-sixth of its territory covered by the giant Michigan Assembly Plant, currently pumping out Ford Broncos and Rangers. Unskilled workers can make $150,000 a year. Many own vacation homes on the state’s thousands of lakes.
It’s a shot-and-beer town. I grew up in a nice, middle-class neighborhood. Within two blocks were two bars where guys would go on their way from work to home. If Newsom walks into one of those bars, he will get a different perspective on what his fellow Democrats think in another state.
Although Michigan has a Democratic governor, Gretchen Whitmer, she well could lose in November. It’s not clear yet because the state’s primary isn’t until August, so the campaign won’t begin in earnest until a Republican challenger is chosen. But with President Biden scoring new lows in approval ratings every week, inflation chewing up family budgets, and Democrats on track to lose 50-plus members in the House, Whitmer will have a difficult time staying in office.
Both houses of Michigan’s Legislature currently are run by Republicans, even though most registered voters are Democrats. That’s because the party’s working-class base generally rejects the current Democratic obsessions with Critical Race Theory, gender theory, and legalized abortion.
After Roe v. Wade was overturned on June 24, the state again had a law against abortion. That’s because in 1972, in one of the first political campaigns in which I was engaged, voters turned down Proposal B, which would have legalized abortion. The No vote was 61 percent. That’s a long time ago.
But a new pro-abortion initiative is on the ballot again this November. I suspect it will lose again. In 1972, Blacks especially opposed the measure because they knew it largely was aimed at their babies. That’s still true today.
Newsom will find similar resistance from Democrats in the other crucial Rust Belt states: Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Illinois and Indiana.
Further, even if he does get the Democratic nomination, those states will be big hurdles come the general election in November 2024. Even Illinois, much more favorable to Democrats, might not like him.
Newsom’s California background doesn’t prepare him for what’s out there on the American steppe.
Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.