Column: Ignore the noise. Here's why Gavin Newsom is not running for president in 2024

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Florida Governor Ron Desantis, left and California Gov. Gavin Newsom.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom, right, has gotten all sorts of political mileage out of a modest ad buy trolling Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. (Associated Press)

Today we discuss Gavin Newsom, waterfowl and the 2024 presidential campaign.

So what's up with California's governor?

Republicans went all in trying to recall the Democrat in September. They gave it their best shot and came up well short. So now Newsom has pretty much a free ride as he cruises to reelection in November.

Zzzz.

Yep, the governor's race is definitely a snoozer.

That said, Newsom is making all sorts of noise and mustering all kinds of attention outside the state, most recently by trolling Florida's governor with a campaign-style TV spot dumping on Republican Ron DeSantis and some of his retrograde policies on free speech and voting rights.

Wait. Newsom ran a political advertisement in Florida?

Yep, going after one of the early front-runners for the 2024 GOP presidential nomination.

Well, that settles it. He's definitely seeking the White House.

Not so fast.

Isn't it obvious?

Normally, I'd say if it waddles like a duck and sounds like a duck, then it's a duck.

Quack!

Hold up, game warden.

There are plenty of reasons why Newsom wouldn't run for president — at least not in 2024 — and those outweigh the reasons he would, all the speculative hyperventilating aside.

Like what?

Well, for starters, Newsom has said six ways from Sunday, and back again, that he's not interested in running for president.

And you believe him?

Stay with me.

OK. What else?

You can dislike Newsom and hate his policies. But he's no dummy.

History has shown how tough it is for a governor with full-time responsibilities in Sacramento to run for president and succeed. Republican Pete Wilson and Democrat Jerry Brown both fell short in their pursuit of the White House and learned that the hard way.

Then there's the matter of the Democrat currently residing in the White House.

Yeah. But, jeez, Joe Biden is really disappointing a lot of Democrats right now.

True.

Many of them seem to think there's a magical way of reinstating the constitutional right to abortion and passing major gun safety legislation, which doesn't exist when Democrats have only nominal control of Congress.

At the least, they'd like President Biden to seem a lot angrier and more upset than he appears, which might make Democrats feel he's trying to channel their outrage.

But it's not as though his fist-shaking can suddenly change the political reality.

Isn't that frustration an opportunity for Newsom?

Not really. There is no time in modern history that a challenger wrestled the nomination away from a president seeking reelection.

There are, however, numerous instances when a president lost reelection because he was weakened during the primary season by a challenger within his own party.

Would Newsom risk pariah status and the end of his political career by waging a long-shot bid to oust Biden, then suffer the wrath if — in all probability — he cost Democrats the White House in 2024?

That seems quite unlikely. At age 54, Newsom has plenty of other, better opportunities to run for president.

What if Biden chooses not to seek a second term?

Then the front-runner automatically becomes his vice president — and Newsom's old frenemy — Kamala Harris.

The two came up together in San Francisco politics and share the same donor and political base. (For a time, they shared the same set of political strategists.) Newsom had indicated to those around him he has no intention of challenging Harris if she were to run in 2024, which is probably wise.

Taking the nomination away from a sitting vice president would also pose a steep challenge.

Many Democrats have been less than impressed with Harris. But any challenge to the first female, first Asian American and first Black vice president seems certain to provoke a fierce backlash, especially among the Black women who constitute the backbone of the Democratic Party.

That's not to say the vice president would win the nomination without a serious fight. If she stumbles, that could provide an opening for an alternative.

But the animosities between pro- and anti-Harris Democrats would make the tensions between the Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders wings of the party look like a children's tea party.

Why would Newsom wade into the thick of that?

So if he's not running for president, what's the governor doing?

Getting people to notice him.

Newsom has made abundantly clear his frustration with fellow Democrats who, in his estimation, haven't pushed back hard enough against Republicans and the far-right activists controlling the Supreme Court.

Newsom is seizing on the built-in national platform that comes with his office, something certain California governors, like Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger, have been more eager to do than others.

Newsom — who has no lack of ego or ambition — also understands that the attention paid to a political figure increases exponentially the instant they're seen as a potential presidential candidate

For $105,000 — a relative pittance — his Florida TV spot generated days of wall-to-wall national news coverage. As of Wednesday, the video had more than 3.3 million views on Twitter.

Try spending that much in Yuba City.

So put away those Newsom 2024 yard signs?

If you were inclined to get one in the first place.

But don't chuck it. With a few cosmetic changes, it could easily be recycled in 2028, or beyond.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.