Newsom and DeSantis are in the spotlight, but they don’t have a chance. Harris and Haley maybe

Left, Republican presidential candidate, former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, speaks during the Family Leaders Thanksgiving Family Forum, Nov. 17, 2023, in Des Moines, Iowa. That’s right, Vice President Kamala Harris will deliver a policy address on the Biden-Harris administration’s vision for the future of artificial intelligence (AI) at the U.S. Embassy in London on Wednesday, November 1, 2023.
(Associated Press)

Newsom and DeSantis are in the spotlight, but they don’t have a chance. Harris and Haley maybe

Elections 2024, California politics

Anita Chabria

November 30, 2023

The height of the Newsom-DeSantis bromance has arrived, the mano-mano matchup between two governors who depend on each other to stoke the kind of polarizing frenzy that fuels headlines and advances careers.

They’ll host a debate Thursday night on Fox News, moderated by far-right provocateur Sean Hannity, an event so hyped you’d think the stakes were high, that this made-for-television stunt would actually matter.

Which is obviously not the case.

“It’s political theater at its most ridiculous,” Mindy Romero told me. She is director of the Center for Inclusive Democracy at the USC Sol Price School of Public Policy. “This does not benefit voters.”

If we wanted something substantial, something that could change the results of the next election, we would put Republican hopeful Nikki Haley in the room with Vice President Kamala Harris, two daughters of immigrants (Haley is South Asian, Harris is from mixed race, South African). Asian and Black) with different views of America, but a shared ability to reach apathetic and disenfranchised voters. But I’ll get to that.

While the spectacle of Newsom and DeSantis going at each other may generate zingers and red-blue outrage, it’s unlikely to sway voters because neither man is actually a contender for anything.

DeSantis’ presidential campaign is sinking, and even platform shoes can’t keep his head above water. Even in the unlikely circumstance that he humiliated Newsom with an unexpected bout of superior humor and insight into the facts, this would not compensate for his fundraising problems, declining poll numbers or the orange elephant in the room, Donald Trump. boundaries are ahead of all other Republican contenders when it comes to committed voters.

Then there’s Newsom, who is absolutely positive

not run for president

, although his team has mounted a surprisingly successful and smart campaign to position him as a Biden surrogate, ready to intervene if necessary. And, as I’ve said before, I appreciate Newsom speaking out and taking action on issues including reproductive freedom.

The problem is that this time he isn’t needed anyway.

And so we have spectacle without substance when it comes to the Newsom-DeSantis drama. As the first female British p


Minister Margaret Thatcher said in 1965: ‘If you want something said, ask a man; if you want something done, ask a woman.”

Or as Romero said, “Isn’t that what we always see, two male politicians who are louder and bolder and take over the spotlight from women of color? I’m not surprised by this at all.”

It may not be surprising, but it is concerning to see that spotlight in the wrong place.

The presidential elections are just around the corner. The margin votes will likely decide whether Biden occupies the Oval Office or not. The most important votes for both parties are young people and voters of color.

Those are votes that Harris and Haley could well earn, but also votes that, if left unattended, could cost the race for both parties.

If Americans under 45 vote at the same rate as in 2020, a recent Brookings Institute poll shows, they will make up more than a third of the electorate.

But young voters are not happy.

Young Republicans have a generational divide on access to abortions. Nearly three-quarters of adults under 30 say abortion should be legal in all or most cases, according to a 2022 Pew Research poll. The Brookings poll found that 47% of Republicans between the ages of 18 and 44 expressed a similar view.

In recent weeks, Haley has gained momentum and critical support in positioning herself as a post-MAGA candidate, even trying, not always successfully, to find a less pointed way to talk about abortion while still supported a ban.

Recently, Haley received critical support from the conservative grassroots organization Americans for Prosperity Action, which was co-founded by billionaire Charles Koch and comes with not only the money but the political machine to back it up.

Her rallies draw bigger crowds and her polling shows that in places where DeSantis’ numbers are declining, she is winning.

She’s nowhere near a real challenger to Trump, but she offers a path forward for Republicans who want a Trump-like administration, all the conservatism without the overt turn to authoritarianism. Anything that moves Republicans away from outright fascism should be considered significant, especially as DeSantis tries to outmaneuver Trump with anti-everything policies that target history, LGBTQ+ communities, Disneyland and more.

For Democrats, the problem with young voters, especially people of color, is evident around the Biden administration’s response to the fighting in Israel and Gaza. His administration, even with its commitment to climate change, gun control and economic priorities such as student debt cancellation, seems out of touch.

About 70% of people aged 18 to 34 disapprove of Biden’s handling of the war between Israel and Hamas, an NBC News poll shows. Many of these young progressives see the Palestinian cause as connected to issues of social justice for communities of color in the United States.

Dov Waxman, director of the UCLA Y&S Nazarian Center for Israel Studies, said he believes the anger of these young progressives may dissipate by the 2024 elections, but their apathy could still keep them from voting.

Biden “has a broader, deeper problem with younger voters and this has certainly exacerbated it,” Waxman said.

Adrianne Shropshire, executive director of BlackPAC, which helps organize Black voters, said Harris is crucial to countering that apathy and is “in many ways uniquely positioned because of her identity” to reach disaffected groups.

Despite the endless attacks Harris faces from Republicans (and even from within her own party), who often use the prospect of a Harris presidency as a kind of threat, “there is a real connection she makes with black voters,” said Shropshire.

And while she faces a brutal narrative that she is unlikable, as Hillary Clinton did, the idea that she might be kicked off the ticket in favor of someone more palatable, like Newsom, is a non-starter and a disaster misinterpretation of voters of color, young, progressive voters and women.

“They’re not going to dump her. They can’t dump her,” Dan Morain told me. He is the author of the definitive biography of Harris, Kamala’s Way.

and has chronicled her career since she was a simple prosecutor.

Instead, Morain, Shropshire and others said the government needs to make better use of its identity and skills in the next campaign cycle, focusing on who it is and who the voters are.

“You just look at Harris and what she does, she’s just more attuned to younger people then [Biden] “One day it will be,” Morain said.

And so we have two interesting women, closer to the Oval Office than Newsom or DeSantis are likely to be any time soon (though I’d give Newsom a shot in 2028).

Haley and Harris are both seasoned, tough survivors who have more in common with most American voters, who are increasingly less white, much to the chagrin of some, but who are hampered by their gender, like every woman who has ever run for office.

Trump has nicknamed Haley “birdbrain.” Harris’ laugh is described as a “cackle.”

But Newsom and DeSantis are, as Hannity put it, “two heavyweights” “getting into a war.”

They certainly have something that Harris and Haley are missing, but it’s not a shot at the presidency.


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