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“Where the hell is my party?”: If Biden leaves, someone has to inherit him

“Where the hell is my party?”
If Biden leaves, someone has to inherit him

By Roland Peters

The US President is old. His poll numbers are disastrous. In November, Joe Biden could also lose the congressional majority. There is already speculation about a possible successor to the Democrats. One of them is Gavin Newsom.

In the southeastern United States, Florida. Few politicians have made it to the top of the country in recent decades without the southeastern tip of the huge United States. US President Joe Biden was only the third exception in almost a century. The state has long been a sunny haven for Republicans, conservative immigrants and, in recent years, those who pose as rebels against a perceived aloof intellectual elite. The most prominent example is Biden’s Republican adversary Donald Trump, who operated an unofficial official residence in Mar-a-Lago during his presidency. Now he lives there.

While Florida, under Governor Ron DeSantis, appears to be firmly in conservative hands, a few thousand kilometers away, things are very different: in the southwestern United States, in California. The most populous state is an almost impregnable stronghold of the Democrats, governed by Governor Gavin Newsom. On the west coast, politics is often more progressive than in indecisive and distant Washington DC. And so there is speculation in the US media about a possible duel between DeSantis and Newsom for the presidency in 2024, not least because of Biden’s age – he will be 80 this year -, his unmistakable dropouts and extremely poor poll numbers.

Gavin Newsom (right) recently signed tightened gun laws for California.

(Photo: AP)

The governor is one of several familiar faces who could run for the Democratic presidential nomination. In a Survey in New Hampshire, the traditionally first state for primary elections, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg (17), Senator Elizabeth Warren (10), Senator Amy Klobuchar (9) and Senator Bernie Sanders (8) appear alongside him with 10 percent and Biden with 16 percent. Vice President Kamala Harris only gets 6 percent. Of these names, Newsom in particular has stood out in recent weeks.

If Biden does not run again in 2024 for health or political reasons, California’s governor would be a hot contender for the party’s candidacy. However, it is far from certain that it will come to this and initially depends on whether Newsom is interested in another post at all. The Republicans are demonstratively calm about it. In California there are gigantic social contrasts, in no state is there a higher proportion of the population of homeless people.

“Republicans ban books”

Newsom stands for a new generation of Democrats, like DeSantis for the Republicans. Parallel to the nationwide congressional elections on November 8, the two are up for re-election in their respective states. Newsom is 54 years old but looks young and dynamic compared to Biden. In California, anything but his convincing election victory would be a surprise. Just last year, the governor won a referendum on early dismissal, which he defeated with an impressive 62 percent approval.

In several phases of the pandemic, the two governors have already insulted each other about their management style and the corona measures. But it did not stop. Newsom has started promoting itself nationwide. In early July, he put $100,000 into a Fox News television spot, which he used to target DeSantis. “Freedom is being attacked in your state,” he warns. “Republicans are banning books, making voting harder, restricting free speech in classrooms, and criminalizing women and doctors.” Florida voters called Newsom to resist or to emigrate. The US media’s coverage of the election campaign drew even more attention to the governor.

Meanwhile, the combative DeSantis wants to continue to govern on the US East Coast. The 43-year-old is close to Trump in substance but is less blustering than the ex-president, making him accessible to voters outside Trump’s wing. In polls about possible Republican presidential primaries for 2024, DeSantis in Florida was well ahead of the ex-president. The two are also potential competitors at the national level. DeSantis has more than $100 million in campaign funds under his belt.

A Newsom vs. DeSantis duel would be a political contrast, which the Democrat in particular recently emphasized again. After California tightened its gun restrictions by law, the governor ran full-page newspaper ads in the Republican-governed state of Texas last week. “If Texas can ban abortion and risk lives, California can ban deadly weapons of war and save lives,” he tweeted. In Texas, there is a very strict ban on abortion after the sixth week of pregnancy. There are no exceptions for rape and incest victims. The Supreme Court overturned the country’s abortion law in June and almost simultaneously strengthened the right to bear arms in public.

“Just cost Biden his nap”

Newsom says it does not want to run for the 2024 presidential nomination. Any other statement would be an unnecessary declaration of war on Biden and thus on his own party. The governor’s tone is already clear enough: “Where the hell is my party?” he asked about the Supreme Court’s abortion verdict. Newsom’s campaign team said it was not the moment to accept defeat, but to fight. Biden has been accused by the progressive wing of the Democrats of seeking too much dialogue with political opponents. His approval ratings are lower than ever, with less than 38 percent currently agreeing with his leadership.

Despite everything, in US politics, the incumbent in his own party has the right of priority to a second candidacy – actually. There are other examples: Ronald Reagan challenged the Republican incumbent Gerald Ford in 1976, four years later Ted Kennedy wanted to contest the candidacy of the Democratic President Jimmy Carter. Both failed. The Republicans are trying to sow discord among political opponents. “Ron DeSantis doesn’t give (the ad) sleepless nights, it only gives Joe Biden his nap, because it clearly shows Newsom is taking a stand against the Democratic president,” said the Florida Republican vice president.

Like a president, a Florida governor can only serve a maximum of two terms. Newsom would still have plenty of time for other offices. Biden would be 86 years old at the end of a possible second mandate. Maybe that’s why the President will even give up voluntarily in two years’ time. Many Democrats would already welcome a new face in the White House. In a survey for the New York Times, 64 percent of them said they would prefer a candidate other than Biden in 2024. Among voters under the age of 30 it was 94 percent.

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