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It’s Gavin Newsom’s Democratic Party

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One of the most memorable moments from the highly anticipated debate between Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) and California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) was a one-liner by Newsom that the one thing the two men — who disagree on virtually every possible topic — have in common is that, “Neither of us will be the nominee for our party in 2024.”

While Newsom is almost certainly correct on that, even without being the Democratic nominee for president, he outlined his party’s agenda in a way that Democrats would be wise to follow, regardless of who is the party’s nominee.

Indeed, not only did Newsom hold his own against a Republican opponent and a conservative moderator — Sean Hannity — but his aggressive, impassioned defense of Biden’s record, and promotion of his own views on hot-button issues such as abortion, immigration and foreign policy, should serve as the bedrock of Democrats’ campaign.

Further, while DeSantis often came off as whiny or defensive, Newsom seemed authentic and intelligent on the issues, in a way that Biden himself has struggled with when talking to voters.

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To that end, it was impossible to watch the debate and not notice the sharp contrast in Newsom’s well-articulated, energetic style with that of President Biden, who just turned 81 and would be 86 at the end of a second term.

On the economy, a critical vulnerability for Biden and Democrats, Newsom offered a credible defense of the president’s economic policies and did so in a convincing way that Biden has been unable to do, as shown by a dismal 38 percent approval on the economy, per RealClearPolitics.

Moreover, Newsom agreed with DeSantis that the border is an issue while defending Biden’s border policy, even pointing out that it’s actually Republicans in the House who are holding up the president’s request for funding to hire more border agents.

And on foreign policy, Newsom pulled no punches condemning Hamas and supporting Israel, at a time when progressives in his party are demanding that Biden abandon Israel and call for a ceasefire.

On abortion, which has been one of the most pressing political issues since the Dobbs decision in 2022, Newsom pushed DeSantis for his signing a six-week abortion ban in Florida. Abortion has been a winning issue for Democrats ever since Dobbs, and while it may feature less prominently in a presidential election, Democrats stand to benefit from painting the GOP as extremists on the issue.

Taken together, Newsom’s ability to defend Democrats’ spend-heavy economic policy, criticize the GOP’s position on abortion and advocate for a moderate approach on the border and foreign policy is a more politically advantageous strategy than Democrats’ current tactics of increasingly far-left positions and making 2024 a referendum on Donald Trump.

To be sure, the debate also highlighted vulnerabilities for Newsom and other Democrats. DeSantis frequently brought up the unpopular lockdown policies during COVID-19 and the erosion of public safety in Democratic-controlled cities.

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That said, even when the facts were in DeSantis’ favor, or when the arguments DeSantis made, such as criticizing Newsom’s handling of COVID-19, were legitimate, the way DeSantis presented them often failed to represent anything new or compelling, and Newsom was able to throw the ball back in DeSantis’ court, accusing him of trying to “out-Trump Trump.”

Put another way, in what should have been a home game for DeSantis, and with his campaign needing a spark, it was Newsom who walked away having made a stronger case for his version of the Democratic platform, and in a much more articulate way.

This is not to suggest that Newsom will replace Biden as the party’s nominee in 2024, but rather that the way Newsom defended and promoted the party’s agenda, as he sees it, is a more convincing argument for voters, and one they will likely be more responsive to than the case they are currently making.

In that same vein, given that both DeSantis and Newsom are incredibly unlikely to be their party’s nominees, and Newsom had the advantage of not actually being a candidate, it remains to be seen whether Joe Biden will be able to defend his record against his likely opponent, Donald Trump, the same way Newsom did against DeSantis, who, while more combative than in previous debates, is no Trump.

However, the debate showcased that if Biden were to replicate Newsom’s spirited defense and pursue moderate policies, he may be able to overcome the pre-election polling which shows him losing to the former president.

Ultimately, with Biden and Trump seemingly destined for a rematch of the 2020 election — which a majority of the country does not want — Thursday’s debate may be most remembered as the first debate of the 2028 presidential campaign, and in that light, Gavin Newsom can certainly be considered as having made the best case for his party. Democrats would be wise to listen.

Douglas E. Schoen is a political consultant who served as an adviser to President Clinton and the 2020 presidential campaign of Michael Bloomberg. His new book is “The End of Democracy? Russia and China on the Rise and America in Retreat.”

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Source: The Hill

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