I used to think Gavin Newsom wouldn’t run for president in 2024. Now I’m not so sure.

SFGATE politics editor Eric Ting argues that a Gavin Newsom presidential bid in 2024 looks much more likely than it did a few weeks ago

Eric Ting, SFGATE June 21, 2022 (SFGate.com)

Gov. Gavin Newsom takes questions during a press conference on COVID-19 vaccination and housing for homeless veterans at the West Los Angeles VA Medical Center in Los Angeles on Wednesday, Nov. 10, 2021. 
Gov. Gavin Newsom takes questions during a press conference on COVID-19 vaccination and housing for homeless veterans at the West Los Angeles VA Medical Center in Los Angeles on Wednesday, Nov. 10, 2021. MediaNews Group/Los Angeles Dail/MediaNews Group via Getty Images

Previously, we’ve written about how California Gov. Gavin Newsom is clearly laying the groundwork for a presidential run, though we’ve argued that 2028 — and not 2024 — is the likely year that would happen.

For one, Biden remains adamant he’s going to seek re-election. For another, if Biden doesn’t run in 2024, Vice President Kamala Harris seems like she’d be the natural successor, and Newsom has stated on two separate occasions that he’d be inclined to back Harris in a Biden-less Democratic primary.

However, recent developments with both Biden and Newsom have made the possibility of Newsom running in 2024 appear much more likely than it did a few weeks ago.

First, the whispers around whether Biden will seek re-election have grown curiously loud in the past few weeks, with several national outlets publishing stories in which anonymous administration and Democratic Party officials have expressed doubts about Biden’s candidacy and continued ability to govern. These whispers come amid a continued downward trend in the president’s approval rating and mainstream publications raising age-related concerns that were once considered taboo. Biden is 79.

The White House, for its part, continues to state Biden will run again. If Biden seeks re-election, it’s beyond unlikely that Newsom or any other prominent Democrat challenges him in a primary. However, Biden running in 2024 certainly seems like less of a sure thing than it was at the start of 2022.

“But wait,” you may say. “Didn’t you state that if Biden doesn’t run, it seems likely Newsom would defer to Harris?”

Sure, that may still happen. But Newsom has dramatically escalated his national posturing in the past week — so much so it’s worth wondering whether his line about deferring to Harris should be ignored as much as his line about how a presidential run is “not even on [his] radar.” (One has to be extremely obtuse to not think Newsom isn’t, at the very least, considering running for president someday.)

First, the governor did an interview with The Atlantic to talk about the national Democratic Party and Republican-led state legislation on abortion and LGBT rights. In that interview, Newsom called for the national Democratic Party to become more combative. Mind you, he found time for this at the moment he and the California Legislature still have not agreed to several important provisions in an inflation relief package tied to the budget.

Then, the governor decided to join former President Donald Trump’s Twitter alternative Truth Social with the stated goal of “calling out Republican lies.” So far, he has posted about gun control, crime and COVID-19 policy. No other Democratic officeholder of Newsom’s stature is doing anything close to this.

In his interview with The Atlantic, Newsom reiterated that he is not “interested in challenging Biden if he seeks a second term, or contesting Harris, a longtime ally, if Biden does not.”

But if Biden doesn’t run, Newsom may become Chris Christie and “miss his moment” if he chooses to defer to Harris (Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis must grapple with similar questions as he considers possibly challenging Trump in 2024). Politics moves extremely fast, and Newsom himself told The Atlantic he was surprised his recent comments about the national Democratic Party struck such a nerve. 

No one knows what the political landscape will look like in 2028 or beyond, so Newsom’s “moment” may be now. All of this is moot if Biden follows through and seeks re-election, but the events of the past few weeks — both in Bidenworld and Newsomworld — have made a Newsom presidential bid in 2024 look much more likely than it looked just a month ago.Top Picks In Shopping

Written By Eric Ting

Eric Ting is SFGATE’s politics editor. He is an East Bay native who has a Master’s degree in journalism from Stanford University. Eric did his undergrad at Pomona College, where he majored in politics and minored in economics. Email: eric.ting@sfgate.com

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