Monday, February 28, 2022







        Just a week or so before the filing deadline for California state offices, only one semi-serious challenger had emerged to run against incumbent Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom.


        No major Democrats need apply, and some big Republican names opted out, like talk show host Larry Elder, the leading replacement candidate in last fall’s failed recall election.


        This is where the GOP’s consistent inability to elect its folks to statewide office comes in: Everyone who could have seemed a formidable challenger to Newsom this year already ran against him last year, trying to oust him in the September recall election. Against a field of more than 100 candidates, Newsom won by a margin of almost 62-38 percent.


        Which leaves the opposition with Republican state Sen. Brian Dahle, a relative unknown from the thinly-populated North state.


        Newsom’s edge last fall was almost identical both to his winning margin in 2018 and President Biden’s advantage over ex-President Donald Trump in California. Landslide territory, when about 40 percent of voters almost always go Republican and 40 percent Democratic, no matter who the candidates may be. Newsom, then, twice has won over almost every potential swing voter.


        That has him looking as safe as any incumbent governor of California ever has, despite a mid-February drop in his job approval ratings. Newsom’s winning vote percentages easily exceed any rung up by ex-Gov. Jerry Brown, who four times won easily.


        Now focus on the next election beyond this fall, the 2024 race for president. You can bet that despite denials, part of Newsom’s mind is already there.


        That run in some ways figures to be the reverse of this year’s California campaign. While Republicans have no significant “bench” in this state, national Democrats are in a similar predicament. Newsom stands alone as about the only politician who could change their situation.


        Look what Democrats have available: There’s a seriously aging Biden, who says he will run two years from now, but appears – with his mincing walk – like he might not be physically able. Behind him is Vice President Kamala Harris, whose approval rating at the end of last year was just 28 percent, the worst ever for a vice president. Harris was so bad a presidential primary candidate in 2020 that she had to drop out before even one primary or caucus ballot was cast.


        Behind them stands, who? Not New York Sen. Chuck Shumer, the Senate’s most prominent Democrat, but one with little appeal outside his own state. Not Vermont Sen. Bernard Sanders, who has failed in two determined runs, and by large margins.


        By contrast, Republicans not only have ex-President Donald Trump, who says he will run and stages rallies around the country, even if they no longer draw full houses. If Trump self-destructs, as he may have started doing by praising Russian President Vladimir Putin as “genius” and “smart” after he invaded Ukraine, they also have two big-state governors visibly eager to run. Those are Florida’s Ron DeSantis and Gregg Abbott of Texas, neither of whom is likely to run if Trump does. There’s also former Vice President Mike Pence, hated by Trump because he refused to interfere illegally with the 2021 transition of power to Biden.


        Polls indicate that if Democrats match either Biden or Harris against any of these folks, they stand a good chance of losing. But Newsom could be a different matter.


        He would come to the Democratic primary season with a major base of California support that guarantees him a respectable number of delegates at the Democratic nominating convention.


        Plus, he is now a seasoned campaigner, performing in a relaxed and confident manner when threatened with a recall amid a loud campaign led by opponents of how he handled the coronavirus pandemic.


        His recall margin indicates the vast majority of adults living under the rules Newsom set approved what he did.


        But does Newsom want the job, for which his fellow Democrats may need him to run? He’s sometimes seemed bored with governing lately, as when he left on a book tour while Californians dealt with a well-publicized crime wave late last fall.


        The bottom line: If Newsom is the most the Democrats have, he will run, and likely run strongly.


    Email Thomas Elias at His book, "The Burzynski Breakthrough, The Most Promising Cancer Treatment and the Government’s Campaign to Squelch It" is now available in a soft cover fourth edition. For more Elias columns, visit

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