Newsom for president? No thanks, say Nevada Democrats, who have a big vote in 2024

President Joe Biden talks to the governor of California. Gavin Newsom as he arrives on Air Force One Monday, September 13, 2021, at Mather Airport in Mather, California, for a wildfire briefing at the California Governors Office of Emergency Services. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Newsom for president? No thanks, say Nevada Democrats, who have a big vote in 2024

Elections 2024, California politics

Mark Z. Barabak

Dec. 17, 2023

When David Mulcrone looks at the 2024 presidential race, he is filled with a combination of resignation and determination.

Gay and Latino, he no longer feels comfortable in Donald Trump’s Republican Party. So he will vote for President Biden if that’s what it takes to keep Trump out of the White House for a second time, even if Mulcrone isn’t thrilled about the prospect.

“Too old,” Mulcrone said of the 81-year-old sitting president. But again, “The Democrats have not put themselves in a position to put anyone else forward.”

In an alternate universe where things like money, filing deadlines and other practicalities don’t matter, there’s a lot of talk about a late entry into the Democratic fray, a savior coming in and the party with a jolt of energy and passion supplies power.

Someone like Gavin Newsom, for example.

California’s 56-year-old governor has repeatedly adamantly insisted he has no plans to challenge the president.

Yet talk of a 2024 candidacy continues, fueled not only by Newsom’s words and actions, but also by a sharp debate with Florida’s governor. Ron DeSantis, runs on the national and international stages, as well as on the chatter of political gossip and frustration from Democrats despairing over Biden’s re-election bid.

If you were to ignore Newsom’s protests and look for a place where he could launch an insurrectionist campaign, neighboring Nevada and its early primaries seem like a good place to start.

But Mulcrone wants no part of that scenario.

And he’s not alone among his fellow Democrats in viewing California as a curse rather than a cure for their political concerns.

“The last time I was in San Francisco was about five years ago,” said Mulcrone, 52, as he led his three pet beagles on a walk in Green Valley, an affluent suburb of Las Vegas.

Mulcrone, who works in sales, remembers getting out of his car and being immediately hit by a pungent smell of urine wafting from the street. He blamed Newsom, a former mayor of San Francisco, for the city’s decline.

“I thought his policies were too liberal and that laid the foundation for why SF is the mess it is today,” Mulcrone said. “I don’t care if I ever set foot there again.”

Michele Hoffman shared his political sentiments.

She voted for Biden in 2020 and credits him for “keeping the country balanced.” But Hoffman would have preferred that Biden not run for re-election, due to the sitting president’s old age.

At this point, however, she sees no viable alternative to the president and cannot envision Newsom replacing Biden atop the Democratic ticket.

“He has that California stigma,” said Hoffman, 66, who retired in Henderson after 30 years at a university in Kansas. “I’m from Missouri, a very conservative area, and I don’t think he would get the support from the rest of the country that he would need to beat Joe Biden.”

Nevada is poised to play a major role in 2024 as one of the few battlegrounds that will decide the presidential race. To that end, it will be the first Western state to consider the Democratic nomination.

New Hampshire votes on January 23, although Biden has kept his name off the ballot to encourage imports from subsequent states. South Carolina, which managed to save Biden’s candidacy in 2020, will follow on February 3. Three days later, Nevada votes.

But it’s not exactly teeming with Newsom supporters.

In nearly three dozen interviews with voters in and around Las Vegas, the election epicenter where most Nevada voters live, none mentioned California’s governor as Biden’s replacement.

(There were also no calls for Vice President Kamala Harris to step in as the Democratic nominee. “I just don’t think she has been the strong presence that I envisioned,” said Hoffman, who led Harris’ 2020 presidential bid supported.)

Biden had his defenders.

Ian Flashner, a Democrat from Las Vegas, said too much attention has been paid to the president’s age.

“I understand why people are concerned, but the man gets the job done,” said Flashner, 52, who makes a living selling equipment at grocery stores. “If he was ten years younger, no one would say a word.”

However, most of them looked like Courtney Pruitt.

The 35-year-old Democrat voted for Biden in 2020 ‘Trump made it easy’, but would prefer a candidate who is younger and more vibrant in 2024. “It doesn’t seem like he’s doing anything,” she said of the president.

Newsom is nowhere on her list of options.

Pruitt often visits Los Angeles on business. She sells vintage antiques in Las Vegas, and the state’s extended pandemic lockdown has soured her on California’s governor.

“He really fooled a lot of people,” said Pruitt, who leans toward Robert F. Kennedy Jr., an anti-vaccine activist who is making an independent and decidedly hands-off bid for the White House.

Democrat Cindy Manchee thought Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer would be an excellent replacement for Biden: “She stands in the middle of the road, she understands that there has to be give and take.” But alas, Manchee lamented, it is too late for that.

The 65-year-old retiree moved to Henderson from the San Francisco Bay Area about a decade ago. Manchee misses California; on a cold afternoon she wore a blue fleece with “Monterey” stitched on the front.

But she doesn’t miss California’s taxes and high cost of living, and thinks Newsom is too liberal to win the White House. In addition, Manchee said, “I don’t think he’s done a very good job” as governor.

Not surprisingly, Republicans could use Newsom even less.

The sun was setting as Tim Foley pulled up to the post office in Spring Valley, a multiracial community five miles west of the Las Vegas Strip, where earthmovers and other heavy equipment mark development’s relentless march through the desert.

Foley, 49, called Biden “terrible” but said Newsom was even worse.

“Biden is not running the country,” said Foley, who owns a health care company in Las Vegas. “They parade him around and there’s a group of people who make decisions for him. Newsom has his own ideas, and that’s scarier to me.”

There were a few fans of the governor.

One of them was Brian V., 41, who runs a chain of stores in an upscale shopping center in Henderson. (He declined to give his last name to avoid hassles about sharing his political views.)

“I love Gavin Newsom,” Brian said during a vape-and-coffee break. ‘He’s young. He’s intelligent. He did a lot of great things for California.”

But that doesn’t mean he

wants him to do that

step into Biden’s place on the Democratic ticket.

“We’re already a little late in that game,” Brian said. “We need to rally behind Joe Biden and get him re-elected so we can avoid another four years of potentially ending up in a fascist state.”

A few shoppers snuck by as Christmas music blared from speakers among the palm trees and agave.

Maybe 2028 will be Newsom’s time. Maybe not.

“Kamala Harris, Pete Buttigieg, Gavin Newsom,” Brian said, ticking off the Democrats he might consider for president.

All kinds of choices. Just not now.


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