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Gavin Newsom, the governor of California the best person to replace Joe Biden.
“Newsom looks like a teenager next to our gerontocracy,” writes Nellie Bowles about the 56-year-old. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

The Problem with Gavin Newsom

He’s charming, dashing, and funny—so why isn’t the governor of California the best person to replace Joe Biden?

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The quick-witted, smooth-talking governor of California would be an obvious pick for Biden’s replacement—in some ways. Gavin Newsom has been Biden’s surrogate throughout the campaign, and he’s good at it, always appearing vigorous and alive, seeming to genuinely enjoy sparring with Republicans. He’s charming; he’s dashing; he’s funny. And he runs the most important state in the union, California, the world’s fifth-largest economy. You can complain about its politics all you want (I do, I have, I will in the following paragraphs), but the numbers don’t lie: the state is a world power unto itself. Plus, there is his age. Newsom looks like a teenager next to our gerontocracy. He is only 56 years old. Sure, that’s about ten years older than Bill Clinton and Barack Obama when they began their terms, but that’s not what matters. To our eyes now, adjusted for Trump and Biden, a 56-year-old president is basically a teen mom—shocking, wild, vibrant

You know what else is going in Gavin Newsom’s favor? His ex-wife is Donald Trump Jr.’s fiancée, which is funny, strange, and definitely falls in the pro column. Plus, he’s managed to wrangle the rest of California’s political class of corrupt communists without ever seeming too corrupt or too communist himself. He’s done some vaguely moderate things. I do believe Gavin Newsom believes in the free market, and that’s a big deal for an elected Californian in the year 2024. 

But Gavin Newsom would probably fail as a Biden replacement. Because he does, I’ve heard, have weaknesses. What are they? 

Well, there’s the homelessness situation. California’s cities are overrun with tent encampments. Root causes: lack of cheap housing thanks to “environmentalists” and neighborhood heritage types who block anything that’s not a single-family home, preferably with a chicken run out back. Also: empathetic-seeming but insane drug policies that all but pay people to do more fentanyl. 

There’s the high-speed rail. This boondoggle has so far cost $18 billion across 15 years, with no train in sight, though the project randomly announces a few feet of track has been laid in a desert every couple years. The top railroad operator in France was supposed to help build it before abandoning the state to build one in a region that was “less politically dysfunctional” (that region: North Africa). 

There’s the fact that California’s required ethnic studies courses are pretty antisemitic. There’s the fact that Newsom was eating indoors with all his friends at the French Laundry during the pandemic when everyone else was banned from indoor dining. I mean, don’t even get me started on Gavin’s lockdown policies. 

As for the top issue on many voters’ minds: he’s not exactly an Abolish ICE guy, but he’s not particularly strong on the border. You’ve heard of sanctuary cities, but Newsom wants the whole state to be “a sanctuary to all who seek it.” Which is a lovely notion but. . . the entire world would like to move to California for a little Santa Monica sanctuary. 

Personally, I like Gavin. (Stop throwing things at me, I am who I am!) But he’s too vulnerable on too many hot-button national topics right now, and I think the DNC knows that.

Nellie Bowles is the author of The Free Press’s legendary Friday column, TGIF. She’s also just published a book, Morning After the Revolution. Read an excerpt, “The Day I Stopped Canceling People,” here. Follow her on Twitter @NellieBowles.

The Free Press earns a commission from any purchases made through all book links in this article.

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