- Wednesday, December 13, 2023

Politicians are never running for president — until they announce they’re running for president.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom has repeatedly denied that he’s going to challenge President Biden for the Democratic nomination. And every prominent Democrat makes the same assertion while pledging fealty to the supreme leader.

“My sense is that the governor is trying to leave his options open,” Eric Schickler, a political science professor at the University of California, Berkeley, told The Hill. “I don’t think there’s any expectation at all he would challenge Joe Biden for reelection.”

The deniers may be right. After all, the Iowa caucuses are just over a month away, and Mr. Newsom’s name won’t be on the ballot — the same thing a week later in the New Hampshire primary.

So maybe Mr. Newsom won’t “run” for president, but maybe he’ll get the nomination anyway.

Mr. Biden is getting worse. At 81, he’s aging fast now, and he can barely hold it together for an entire speech. Take last week in Las Vegas, where the president was announcing an $8.2 billion budget add for 10 major rail projects. But that’s not what Mr. Biden said. Instead, he said the federal government would spend “over a billion, three hundred million, trillion, three hundred million dollars.” Huh.

I think Mr. Biden has already cut a deal with Mr. Newsom for him to take over. And that could still happen in a couple of simple ways.

(1) Early next year, Mr. Biden could say that his doctors have informed him that his health is not good enough for him to run for reelection, and he could endorse Mr. Newsom (he sure isn’t going to back his vice president, Kamala Harris). That’s the easy one.

(2) Mr. Biden could wait — and wait and wait and wait — all the way up until the Democrats hold their national nominating convention. He could drop out just days before the Democratic National Committee meets in August in Chicago, once again endorsing Mr. Newsom. Then delegates would pick him, and boom, he’s the 2024 presidential nominee.

Of course, Mr. Newsom doesn’t have to run this time around. He’s only 56 years old, so if he were to run at Mr. Biden’s current age, he’d be a candidate in 2048.

But Mr. Newsom sure looks like a guy who’s running for president.

In October, Mr. Newsom made a hastily arranged trip to Israel, meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Then he popped over to China and met with President Xi Jinping (who seldom meets with anyone who is not the leader of a country). Afterward, Mr. Newsom acknowledged that oddity and sounded exactly like a presidential candidate.

Mr. Newsom said he brought up some of the hot-button issues between the U.S. and China, adding that his visit “is suggestive that we’re entering, I hope, a new phase, and the fact that he’s meeting with a governor of California at the subnational level … is indicative of a thawing.”

Earlier this month, Mr. Newsom engaged in a televised debate with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (surely a first).

“Why don’t you just admit it? You’re running,” Mr. DeSantis said. Mr. Newsom got in a zinger: “Neither of us will be the nominee for our party in 2024.”

The mainstream media painted Mr. Newsom as a “surrogate,” and perhaps that’s the role he was playing. But he surely raised his political profile — a governor debating a bona fide presidential candidate. “You’re nothing but a bully,” Mr. Newsom told Mr. DeSantis in the waning minutes. “You’re a bully,” Mr. DeSantis said in a not-so-witty retort.

This whole scenario could be completely wrong. But remember, when a politician is prominent enough to be asked if they’re running for president and he says no, he’s probably running for president.

• Joseph Curl covered the White House and politics for a decade for The Washington Times. He can be reached at josephcurl@gmail.com and on X @josephcurl.

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