Monday, July 1, 2024







        For more than 25 years, as they climbed the political ladder of politics in California and the nation, Gov. Gavin Newsom and Vice President Kamala Harris have acted like friendly colleagues, assiduously avoiding conflict.


        They shared a mentor in former San Francisco Mayor and state Assembly Speaker Willie Brown. They shared campaign consultants. They’ve never butted heads, each always running for offices the other was either willing to bypass or ineligible to hold (Harris was San Francisco district attorney; as a non-lawyer, Newsom could never do that).


        Now the cognitive problems of President Biden are pushing them toward a possible rivalry.


        As pressure mounts for Biden to step away from the Democratic Party nomination for President, Harris and Newsom are on most short lists to replace him.


        Harris has survived several close calls, including a razor-thin victory in her first run for California attorney general, and she's never been an overwhelming vote-getter. Witness her early withdrawal from the 2020 Democratic primaries.


        Newsom has had no trouble getting elected, winning all his runs by wide margins: twice for San Francisco mayor, lieutenant governor twice, governor twice and easily beating back the 2021 Republican-sponsored recall attempt.


        Both are among the most vocal advocates for Biden even after his June 27 debate debacle, in which he appeared sometimes to lose focus and failed to call out any of ex-President Donald Trump’s outright lies with specific information. One example came when Trump repeatedly claimed Democrat-dominated states allow not just late-term abortions, but also killing of babies after they’re born.


        No state allows this. It is murder everywhere. But Biden did not say that. It was his best chance to show 50 million viewers just how blatant Trump's lies can be. It was a blown opportunity.


        This is one cause of the pressure now mounting on the incumbent to bow out and let delegates to the August Democratic National Convention choose someone else. Such pressure cannot get much stronger than the firm call from the New York Times to step down.


        It will be much harder for Biden to survive that call than for Trump to survive a similar demand from the Philadelphia Inquirer that he step down because of his incessant stream of falsehoods.


        If they were not from the same state, even the same city, Newsom and Harris might team up as a possible replacement ticket for today’s Biden-Harris.


        But they can’t be on the ticket together. In American history, there has never been a same-state ticket; many scholars believe it would be unconstitutional. This is one thing making Trump hesitate to pick Florida Sen. Marco Rubio as his running mate, with Trump’s official residence also in Florida.


        Who else could Democrats tap aside from Newsom or Harris, both now performing credibly in speaking for Biden after his debate problems? Harris sticks up for him, while also conceding that was “not his finest moment.”


        Newsom, already Biden’s leading surrogate, was strategically present in the “spin room” after that debate, repeatedly denying interest in replacing Biden.


        But there was no General Sherman-like statement of “if nominated, I will not run” or “if elected, I will not serve.”


        Yes, Democrats could tap someone like Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker or Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, both popular in their states. But no Democrat besides Newsom and Harris actually has national debate experience, Newsom having taken on Florida’s conservative Gov. Ron DeSantis last fall while neither was actively seeking office.


        Newsom is also the only Democrat to use his own campaign money for TV commercials backing Democrats and excoriating Republicans in red states like Alabama and Florida. Plus, Newsom has campaigned not only for Biden, but many other Democrats.


        Harshly criticized by the California GOP for recording and distributing his state of the state speech, rather than doing it live, Newsom may have had an instinct, since that speech could serve as a Democratic manifesto by maintaining progressive values are the best antidote for excesses of the far right represented by Trump.


        All of which means that more than perhaps anyone else, both Harris and Newsom are prepped and ready to step in if Biden drops out.



    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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