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California Governor Urges Overhaul Of Democrats’ Strategy


SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — California Gov. Gavin Newsom called for an overhaul of Democrats’ political strategy on Saturday, saying the party is “getting crushed” by Republicans partly because they’re too timid, often forced to play defense while Republicans “dominate with illusion.”

Speaking on the Texas Tribune Festival in Austin, Texas — the territory of Republican Gov. Greg Abbott, certainly one of Newsom’s chief political foils — Newsom was careful to praise current party leaders like President Joe Biden and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

But he said that mantras that will have worked for the party previously — like Michele Obama’s famous quip “after they go low, we go high,” — simply don’t work today because “that’s not the moment we’re living in right away.”

“These guys are ruthless on the opposite side,” Newsom said. “Where are we? Where are we organizing, bottom up, a compelling alternative narrative? Where are we occurring the offense each day? They’re winning right away.”

California Gov. Gavin Newsom speaks onstage throughout the second day of Vox Media’s 2022 Code Conference on September 07, 2022, in Beverly Hills, California.

Jerod Harris/Getty Images for Vox Media

Newsom said that’s why — though he’s running for reelection as governor of California — he has been spending among the tens of millions of dollars in his campaign account on TV ads in Florida urging people to maneuver to California, newspaper ads in Texas decrying the state’s gun laws, and putting up billboards in seven states urging women to come back to California in the event that they need an abortion.

“There’s nothing worse than someone pointing fingers. What are you going to do about it?” Newsom said. “The explanation we’re doing those ads is because … the Democratic Party must be doing more of it.”

In fact, the essential reason Newsom can do those things is because he faces little pressure at home. Newsom is more likely to cruise to a second term as governor of California in November, facing a little-known and underfunded Republican challenger one 12 months after defeating a recall attempt.

Newsom’s actions have increased speculation he is perhaps running for president, an idea he has repeatedly denied — doing so again on Saturday in Texas. Asked if he was considering running for president in 2024 or 2028, Newsom said: “No, not happening.”

“I cannot say it enough,” he said. “I never trust politicians, so I get why you retain asking.”

A billboard advertising abortion services in California recently popped up in Columbia, South Carolina. The ad was paid for by California's Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom.A billboard promoting abortion services in California recently popped up in Columbia, South Carolina. The ad was paid for by California’s Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom.

Zak Koeske/The State/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

Newsom said that President Joe Biden’s first two years in office have been “a master class … on substance and policy.” But later, he said good governance, by itself, is just not enough to win elections — adding that “otherwise Biden can be at 75% approval.” In point of fact, about 53% of U.S. adults disapprove of Biden, based on the most up-to-date poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.

The issue for Democrats, Newsom said, is that they “fall in love so easily” with “the guy or gal on the white horse to come back save the day.”

“We missed a more essential paradigm that leadership is just not defined by that person in formal authority, it’s defined by individuals with moral authority each day,” he said.

Newsom’s aggressiveness could find yourself helping Abbott, who’s locked in a more competitive race with former Congressman Beto O’Rourke. Kenneth Grasso, a political science professor at Texas State University, said there was concern amongst some within the Republican Party that Abbott is “not conservative enough.” Newsom’s attacks against Abbott “only helps him with those people,” Grasso said.

“For those who stress that they’re right-wingers, you call them extremists, using that sort of language, all you’ll do is enhance their popularity in their very own base,” he said.

Despite that risk, Texas Democrats appear to be welcoming Newsom’s attention.

“I like this guy,” Texas Democratic Party chair Gilberto Hinojosa said of Newsom. “I like the way in which he’s showing the contrast between what y’all do in California and what the narrow-minded, extremist positions that occur here within the state of Texas.”

The Republican Party of Texas didn’t reply to an email searching for comment.

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