DANIEL VAUGHAN: Newsom and Harris jockey for the White House

 June 12, 2023

Last week, we were talking about President Joe Biden's fall at an Air Force graduation ceremony and New York Times articles raising red flags over his age and health. It was the latest example of weakness from the Biden White House. That's not the observations of someone on the right, or as the press calls it, "conservative misinformation." Democrats see this as an opening, too.

Politico published an article pumping up the candidacy of far-left academic and author Cornel West. Multiple Democrats were quoted as praising West's candidacy, and other Democrats were worried West could cause cracks in the Biden coalition. This seems highly unlikely to an outside observer, as West has long held a crackpot crank status with most Americans. But when everyone senses weakness, even the slightest move against Biden has weight.

But it's not West who took the most significant moves this past week. That award goes to two Californians: Vice President Kamala Harris and California Governor Gavin Newsom. It's clear that both of them are jockeying for the best position post-Biden, though both are doing it very differently.

Gavin Newsom builds profile loudly.

Gavin Newsom immediately jumped on Biden's fall as an attempt to take over leadership of the Democratic Party, at least figuratively. First, he announced that he wanted a new 28th amendment to the United States Constitution. This amendment would seek to restrict gun rights in the country.

Among the clauses of this constitution, it would "raise the federal minimum age to buy a firearm to 21 from 18; mandate universal background checks; institute a 'reasonable' waiting period for all gun purchases and ban assault rifles nationally."

Why now? Politico says, "The effort positions California at the forefront of the fight for increased gun restrictions. Newsom and the state Legislature in Sacramento are set to kickoff a nationwide process that would require support from 34 states to trigger a convention."

Left unsaid is how they'd ever get to that magic number of thirty-four to trigger a convention. Twenty-seven states in America allow permitless carry of a firearm. The remaining twenty-four states, including DC, aren't exactly hostile to firearms, and it'd be unlikely Newsom's push for an amendment would ever carry any weight.

Newsom courts Fox News voters too.

But the main point is that Newsom and California are out in front. Having watched Florida Governor Ron DeSantis dominate media coverage of his legislative acts, Newsom wants to copy that playbook. And in so doing, he wants other Democrats to see him as the unofficial leader of the Democratic Party.

That point became even more evident when Newsom went on Fox News with Sean Hannity to discuss COVID, his relationship with Donald Trump, and more. Newsom even played up his relationship with Trump, claiming he had a great working relationship with him during the pandemic.

Newsom went on the offensive like this the week after Biden's fall, and the New York Times raised more issues about Biden's age and health. It's hard to view that as a coincidence. Newsom said only last year that he "wouldn't run in 2024," even if Biden wasn't running for office. But nothing about his actions makes anyone think he's positioning himself for 2028 or later.

VP Kamala Harris quietly tries to build profile.

Another person seeking to boost her profile is Vice President Kamala Harris. EMILY's List announced a plan to spend $10 million to boost Harris's profile and improve her abysmal polling numbers. Politico said of the spending:

Such an investment in support of a sitting vice president is politically unprecedented. And it reflects the lack of broader efforts that have been made to date to help bolster the vice president amid persistently low approval ratings.

They said the spending "underscores the growing recognition that Harris may play an outsized role in what is sure to be a tough election. Republican presidential candidates have made it clear they will be using the specter of a Harris presidency as a way to hurt Joe Biden's chances at reelection, particularly by raising questions about his age and capacity for the job."

It's a fair question. Are you voting for Joe Biden in 2024, or are you voting for his Vice President? Not even the New York Times, Politico, or the average Democrat seems to know the answer. Sure, if a Republican brings it up, they attack and call all this baseless fear-mongering.

Democrats searching for a post-Biden plan.

But actions tell another story. Harris is getting $10 million to boost her profile, while Newsom is talking about accomplishments and Trump on Hannity. Meanwhile, Joe Biden is on his weekend holiday while everyone else runs around.

Half of independent voters say Biden's age and health are issues for them in 2024. It's not hard to blame them when Democrats are running around trying to figure out a contingency plan.

The reality is simple. There's no real way for anyone to outflank Kamala Harris. If Gavin Newsom got his wish, he'd rend the Democratic Party apart at the seams. But as everyone keeps maneuvering for 2024, Biden is still in the seat. It's just growing clear that Democrats are trying to think past Biden with each passing day.

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