Third Party Candidates Widening Trump’s Lead Over Biden

There’s a reason why Democrats are freaking out over comparative anti-interventionists RFK Jr., Jill Stein, and Cornel West.

Adam DelGiudice/ZUMAPRESS/Newscom

Though the majority of general-election presidential polls at this stage of campaign 2024 feature only President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump, a growing number are beginning to reflect what most voters’ ballots are going to actually look like: pretty crowded.

So what happens when other names are added to the two least popular presidents in the modern polling era? Led by former Democrat and current independent Robert F. Kennedy Jr., they combine to attract support in the low double digits, usually. But what really has Democratic operatives in a funk is how the introduction of competition affects the spread between the Big Two. Long story short, it widens Trump’s lead. At least as of now.

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There have been at least 19 polls taken since mid-January that include both the simple Trump-Biden option and a choice that adds 1–5 additional candidates, thereby allowing an apples-to-apples numerical evaluation of the third party/independent impact on the same set of voters. In only two of those polls—one in Pennsylvania, the other in Georgia—did Biden’s position vis-à-vis Trump improve with those extra names; in 13, Trump gained ground.

For example, an I&I/TIPP survey of 1,266 registered voters released Wednesday showed Trump leading the two-way race within the margin of error—43 percent to 41 percent (with 10 percent saying “other” and 6 percent undecided). But adding five new candidates to the mix extended Trump’s lead by 4 points: 40 percent to 34 percent, with Kennedy receiving 8 percent, presumed No Labels candidate Sen. Joe Manchin (D–W. Va.) 3 percent, independent progressive Cornel West 2, and presumed Green nominee Jill Stein and presumed Libertarian Lars Mapstead tied at 1 percent apiece. (“Other” shrinks down to 2 percent, and undecided shoots up to 10.)

No Labels will decide whether it will jump into the fray, and if so with what ticket, sometime after the March 5 Super Tuesday primaries; the organization has amassed ballot access in 14 states and expects to achieve 32, with hopes that any eventual nominee can elbow onto most of the remaining 18. Cornel West, who raised just $250,000 in the third quarter of 2023 (compared to RFK’s $8.7 million in the third and $7 million in the fourth), and whose personal finances are notoriously shambolic, nevertheless has unofficially qualified for ballot access in two states, and is (like RFK) forming new political parties in selective states to reduce his petitioning burden.

The Libertarian Party, which has led the non-Democratic/non-Republican field for presidential ballot access five elections running, says it expects to be on 48 ballots; the Greens north of 30.

While much of the Democratic Party’s freakout over third-party challengers has focused on No Labels, with its untold millions and clustering of well-known centrist politicians (Manchin, former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, former Sen. Joe Lieberman, and perhaps former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie), at least two factors suggest a low electoral ceiling for the group: 1) As I pointed out last July, “the centrist moneybags lane of presidential politics over the past half-decade is full of carcasses: Evan McMullinLarry HoganJohn KasichHoward SchultzMichael BloombergBill Weld, and American Renewal, for starters.” And 2) the organization and its floated candidates are considerably more hawkish on foreign policy than Joe Biden, at a time when much of the political passion being expressed particularly on the left is focused on criticizing Israel (and Biden’s support thereof) for its war in Gaza.

“It will be difficult for [Biden] to talk about redeeming the soul of the nation when he is enabling genocide,” Cornel West told The Washington Post in an article published Thursday.

Biden in his public appearances has been serially hounded by anti-Israel protesters. White House staffers in the hundreds have been engaging in semi-regular protests against his Mideast policy. Fifty-one percent of Democrats, per a YouGov survey in November, and 55 percent of all Americans ages 18–29 (a key Democratic Party demographic) consider Israel’s actions in Gaza to be a “genocide,” compared to just 29 percent of independents and 20 percent of Republicans.

A December New York Times/Siena poll showed that the 18–29 cohort thinks that Biden has been too supportive of Israel (45 percent vs. 6 percent who said too supportive of Palestinians); that the Palestinians were the most sympathetic side (46 percent to 27 percent for Israelis); that America should not send more support (55 percent); that Israel is not seriously interested in a peaceful solution (59 percent); and that Israel should stop the war even before all its hostages are free (67 percent). All of those numbers are way out of whack with the rest of American adults, and help explain why—in this one poll, anyway—the under-30 vote prefers Trump over Biden 49 percent to 30 percent.

“Forget No Labels. Biden’s Third-Party Peril is on the Left,” went the headline on a Politico magazine article this weekend written by the influential campaign journalist Jonathan Martin. “How many Biden speeches must be shouted down,” Martin wondered, “until Democrats realize that a hot war in Gaza this fall may mean 30,000 fewer votes apiece in Madison, Dearborn and Ann Arbor and therefore the presidency?”

In five-way general election polls this cycle—Trump vs. Biden vs. Kennedy vs. Stein vs. West—Stein and West are polling at around 2.2 percent apiece. That may not sound like a lot, until you consider that a combined 4.4 percent for left-of-the-Democrat candidates would be the highest number since the Progressive Party’s Robert La Follette over a century ago. Also, in the five such polls taken in 2024 that also feature the simple Trump vs. Biden matchup, the bigger ballot saw Trump’s lead widen by an average of two percentage points.

Both Stein and West and the entire field currently seeking the Libertarian Party nomination are decidedly more anti-interventionist, and critical of the American empire, than Biden or Trump. For most of the 21st century, comparative foreign policy skeptics have punched far above their weight in presidential elections: Ralph Nader in 2000, Howard Dean in 2004, Ron Paul and Barack Obama in 2008, Paul again in 2012, Trump in 2016.

The wild card this time around might be RFK Jr., who initially thrilled many anti-interventionists with his dovish take on the Russia-Ukraine war only to alienate them with his staunch post–October 7 support for Israel. According to The Washington Post, Kennedy’s advisers “say he will deliver a speech soon to address concerns both among leftist activists and libertarians that his approach to Israel is too hawkish.”

You will rarely go broke betting against independent and third-party candidates to undershoot their expectations and to fail (as they have every presidential election after 1968) to win a single state. Many, though not all, of the conditions that dampened third-party enthusiasm in 2018, 2020, and 2022 remain in place, chiefly high negative polarization and the related anxiety that the worse of the two major parties will introduce authoritarianism. Third-party poll numbers almost always march steadily downward from February to November, and even the final day’s polling typically overstates support by a third.

But America’s anti-interventionist sentiment almost always dwarfs that of their highest representatives in Washington, even those who were elected promising a more humble foreign policy. And it’s not hard to imagine overseas entanglements sprouting all over the globe this calendar year, against a domestic backdrop of highly charged politics and profound youth-vote alienation from the rest of the country.

“This is a disaster politically,” an unnamed House Democrat told Politico‘s Martin. “The base is really pissed—and it’s not just the leftists. I have never seen such a depth of anguish as I’ve seen over this Gaza issue.”

Click here to read the full article in Reason

California could give Trump early boost, poll says

Survey of state’s voters shows tepid support for Biden and less for Kennedy.

Two-thirds of Californians most likely to vote in the Republican primary intend to cast their ballots for Trump, according to the latest UC Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies poll, co-sponsored by The Times.
 (Associated Press)

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No matter the results of the Iowa caucus on Monday night, new polling suggests that Republicans vying for the presidential nomination face the equivalent of a brick wall on Super Tuesday in the form of former President Trump.

In California, one of 15 states holding Republican primaries on March 5, two-thirds of voters considered likely to take part in the Republican primary said they would cast their ballots for Trump, according to the latest UC Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies poll, co-sponsored by the Los Angeles Times. That’s up from an already dominant 57% in October.

The poll, taken Jan. 4-8, suggests that California conservatives could provide a significant boost to Trump’s efforts to clinch his party’s nomination early in the primary season, despite his relatively light presence in early primary states.

This year’s primary is the first under new “winner-take-all” rules set last summer by the California Republican Party, which allocate all 169 delegates — the most of any state — to a candidate who wins more than 50% of the vote.

California’s delegation accounts for nearly 14% of the delegates needed to secure the Republican nomination.

“It’s now a different ballgame, and it certainly benefits Trump if he can follow through on these numbers,” said Mark DiCamillo, the director of the Berkeley IGS poll. “If Trump carries California, he’s a long way toward securing the nomination.”

Previously, Republican presidential candidates received three delegates for each congressional district they won in California, meaning several candidates could make gains in the Golden State.

Trump holds similarly large leads in several other Super Tuesday states, according to recent polls. All told, just over one-third of the delegates to the GOP convention will be settled that day. Trump’s strategists hope to win enough of them to put the nomination out of contention at that point, which would be before any of the four criminal trials he faces are scheduled to begin.

Former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley is now Trump’s closest competitor in California, but she is running a distant second place, with support from 11% of likely voters, the new poll found.

Haley backers hope that a strong showing in Iowa coupled with a possible win in New Hampshire this month could give her enough momentum to truly challenge Trump for the nomination.

The poll suggests why that will be so difficult. She performs best among the relatively small segments of California Republicans who described themselves as politically moderate or liberal and those with a postgraduate education. Among self-described “strongly conservative” voters, who play an outsize role in Republican primaries, 5% back her.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who in February of last year was leading Trump in California, is “falling like a stone,” DiCamillo said. DeSantis is now the choice of 8% of the state’s likely Republican voters.

The general election is a different story. The outcome of the race has been clouded by Trump’s legal battles, President Biden’s sinking popularity among younger voters and Latinos, and the presence of third-party and independent candidates, including progressive activist Cornel West and Robert F. Kennedy Jr.

The poll suggests that support for Biden in California continues to be tepid, despite the state’s deep-blue politics.

Half of California voters have a favorable view of Biden, while 48% say their view is unfavorable. His job approval among all registered voters — 44% approve and 52% disapprove — hasn’t moved significantly from October, when, for the first time, a majority of Californians disapproved of Biden’s job performance.

“He’s underwater, which is not a great place to be in a blue state,” DiCamillo said.

Biden’s support has eroded more among some voter groups, including Latinos.

Democrats have a 2-1 voter registration advantage over Republicans among Latinos in California, DiCamillo said. But the poll found that just 38% of likely Latino voters in California have a favorable view of Biden.

That number falls to 34% among Latinos for whom Spanish is their dominant language, a group that in past elections has tended to be more Democratic than other Latinos.

Biden is also struggling to retain the support of young voters. Just 4 in 10 likely voters younger than 30 have a positive view of Biden, compared with 6 in 10 likely voters older than 75.

“Those are big changes, and they’re typically a very key Democratic constituency,” DiCamillo said.

Asked about a hypothetical five-candidate field that includes West, Kennedy and Green Party candidate Jill Stein, the poll found that Biden would hold a 16-point lead over Trump in California, 47% to 31%, significantly less than his 30-point victory margin in 2020. The poll found 6% support for Kennedy, 2% for West, and 1% for Stein, while 12% of likely voters remained undecided.

In a head-to-head contest with no third-party candidates, Biden’s lead over Trump would increase to 19 points, 56% to 37%, with 7% undecided, the poll found. If Vice President Kamala Harris were the Democratic nominee, she would beat Trump in the state by an almost identical margin, 55% to 37%.

Biden would also beat Haley in California, 51% to 34%, but with 16% of voters undecided, the poll found.

Younger voters’ and Latinos’ souring on Biden is not unique to California. In some swing states, where the contest is much closer, polls have found Biden trailing Trump in hypothetical 2024 matchups.

But the mixed reception for Biden’s job performance is better than how voters in California see Trump: 34% positively, 63% negatively, including 58% whose view of the former president is “strongly unfavorable.”

Kennedy, who is running as an independent, has clocked double-digit support in some polls of swing states. That isn’t the case in California, where he is polling at 6% among likely voters.

Kennedy worked as an environmental lawyer in New York for years, but now lives part time in Los Angeles with his wife, actor Cheryl Hines. He has played up his California ties since he launched his campaign, recording videos at the Venice Boardwalk and in the Santa Monica Mountains and hosting fundraisers with Westside yoga teachers.

That appeal hasn’t seemed to have worked in California, where his approval rating is 31%, the poll found.

Nearly two-thirds of California Democrats report disliking Kennedy, who spent decades as a Democrat and ran as a Democrat in the presidential primary until he launched his independent bid in October.

“Republicans are much more positive in their views of Kennedy” than Democrats or voters with no party preference, DiCamillo said. “It’s really interesting.”

The poll found that 50% of California Republicans have a strongly favorable or somewhat favorable view of Kennedy, who founded the anti-vaccine organization Children’s Health Defense.

Among conservative voters, Kennedy is the second-most popular political figure, following Trump, suggesting that he could be an option for disaffected Republicans.

West, who launched an independent bid for the presidency in October, is far less known among California voters than Kennedy. The poll found 15% of likely California voters with a favorable opinion of the progressive activist, while 27% say they see him unfavorably, and 58% don’t have an opinion.

Click here to read the full article in the LA Times

Gavin Newsom Makes Surprise Stop at Florida College to Attack DeSantis: ‘Crawling Out of My Skin for You’

Newsom has been seen as a potential Democratic presidential candidate for 2024

Gov. Gavin Newsom, D-Calif., followed up his national red state tour on Wednesday at the New College of Florida to criticize Gov. Ron DeSantis’, R-Fla., policies.

The visit was considered a surprise stop on Newsom’s plan to visit several Republican-led states that he previously banned official travel to over the week. During this time, Newsom spoke with about two dozen New College students, faculty and community members at the North Sarasota Public Library in response to DeSantis’ recent appointment of six conservative board members.

“I’m crawling out of my skin for you,” Newsom said. “I want you to know you’re not alone. You matter.”

The governor’s attack was not limited to DeSantis’ college appointments but included critiques on DeSantis’ conservative policies as well.


“Fifty years of progress, 50 years on voting rights, on civil rights, LGBTQ rights, abortion rights, contraceptive rights, all of that at threat, state after state, led by your state and your governor with a zest for demonization and othering people.” Newsom said. “He has one thing that is common with everything he’s doing – bullying and intimidating vulnerable communities. You’re not only on the right side of history, you have something he’ll never have – moral authority.”

At the start of the new year, DeSantis appointed new board members, including notable critical race theory critic Christopher Rufo. This was considered as part of his larger campaign to eliminate critical race theory, gender ideology and diversity and equity programs from Florida’s education system.

The governor’s attack was not limited to DeSantis’ college appointments but included critiques on DeSantis’ conservative policies as well.


“Fifty years of progress, 50 years on voting rights, on civil rights, LGBTQ rights, abortion rights, contraceptive rights, all of that at threat, state after state, led by your state and your governor with a zest for demonization and othering people.” Newsom said. “He has one thing that is common with everything he’s doing – bullying and intimidating vulnerable communities. You’re not only on the right side of history, you have something he’ll never have – moral authority.”

At the start of the new year, DeSantis appointed new board members, including notable critical race theory critic Christopher Rufo. This was considered as part of his larger campaign to eliminate critical race theory, gender ideology and diversity and equity programs from Florida’s education system.

Click here to read the full article at FoxNews

Gov. Newsom Forced to Repeal California’s anti-LGBT Banned-States Law for 2024 Presidential Campaign

California’s governor is going to show the red states a thing or two about promoting social equality

In order for California Governor Gavin Newsom to be able to travel the country campaigning for President – without being called a hypocrite – he’s orchestrated the introduction of a new bill to end California’s travel ban to “anti-LGBT law” states.

Senate Bill 447, authored by Senator Toni Atkins (D-San Diego), would end California’s ant-LGBT law travel ban to 23 states, including  Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Montana, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah and West Virginia.

Last summer, Newsom was busted vacationing in Montana – one of the 22 states on California’s list of state-banned travel. Montana is not only among the 22 states to which California has banned state-funded and state-sponsored travel, Montana is also one of the states Newsom’s office has called out for restricting abortion access.

That should have been a thoroughly embarrassing issue for the governor.

This time, with Newsom agitating for a Presidential run in 2024, California’s growing list of banned states could make it a lot more difficult for the governor since it won’t just be his friendly California media on his tail.

And rather than admit just how stupid it is to ban states from state travel, Newsom and his PR team think they’ve cooked up a really witty reason to change the law: “rather than just end the ban, the bill would instead replace it with the Building and Reinforcing Inclusive, Diverse, Gender-Supportive Equity Project (BRIDGE Project) to ‘promote social equity, civil rights, and antidiscrimination through marketing and advertising campaigns,’” the Globe reported.

Ahhhh, California’s governor is going to show the red states a thing or two about building bridges, promoting social equality and civil rights, and anti discrimination.

Good luck with that Gavin. Those red states aren’t the back-woods hayseeds you think they are.

Think about this – Gov. Newsom is authorizing spending California taxpayers’ money in other states so he can teach them a lesson about social equity.

“I think polarization is not working,” said Senator Atkins on Wednesday. “We need to adjust our strategy. We know what we need to do, but we need to be able to be there to do it.

Newsom claims he’s not running for President but his actions, even as buffoonish as they are with this new bill, indicate otherwise. He will discover on his whistle stop social equity tour of Red States that he isn’t as attractive to the rest of the country as he and his team think he is.

Click here to read the full article in California Globe

GOP Elites Want to Turn from Trump. Will the Base Let Them?

Forget the scathing editorials from conservative media blaming former President Trump for the GOP’s mediocre midterm. Never mind their underwhelmed reception to his 2024 presidential launch. Disregard the major donors who are bailing this time around.

Keith Korsgaden is firmly on board for a Trump reprise. He’s quite sure he’s not alone.

“There are 74 million people that voted for Donald Trump in 2020, and those 74 million of us still feel the same way — that he’s one of us,” Korsgaden said. The Visalia restaurant owner has been a Trump supporter since that momentous descent down Trump Tower’s escalator in 2015.

There may not be quite the unanimity that Korsgaden predicts, but his loyalty underscores a stark reality: Republican power brokers may be ready to break from Trump, but a significant slice of Republican voters? Not so much.

As the 2022 midterm election wheezes to an end, the start of the 2024 campaign feels both uncharted and uncannily familiar. Trump began his bid for a comeback — the first attempt by a former president since Herbert Hoover — as the front-runner for the Republican nomination who nonetheless appears vulnerable to a serious intra-party challenge.

The fundamental question facing the Republican Party during this long run-up to the next election is who truly is in control: the elected officials and opinion leaders who have shaped their party’s agenda from the top, or the grassroots bloc of Trump faithful who have ruled from below. The latter may have shrunk in numbers since the former president left office, but they still command outsize influence in GOP primaries — and there may be just enough of them to propel Trump forward in a crowded field of competitors.

Republicans face daunting scenarios: an ugly primary battle that could aggravate ideological tensions within the party, or an easy waltz to the nomination by a candidate with proven unpopularity among crucial voters such as women and independents.

“I don’t believe he is completely intractable from the Republican Party,” said Mike Madrid, an anti-Trump GOP consultant. “Here’s what I do believe — I believe the Republicans have so swallowed the hook that when you rip it out, it’ll bring up all its guts and probably kill it.”

Republican elites have been here before, publicly breaking from Trump after the predatory vulgarity of the leaked “Access Hollywood” tape, his equivocation in denouncing white supremacists in Charlottesville, and the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol that was catalyzed by his false allegations of election fraud. But so long as Trump was able to mobilize infrequent voters to back him or his endorsed candidates, his influence on the party was never in doubt.

It may be different this time. In tones typically reserved for Trump, media personalities are speaking reverently about Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ 19-point romp to reelection. The party’s strong performance in Florida’s congressional races also enhanced DeSantis’ reputation for carrying down-ballot candidates to victory. By contrast, top party figures have pointedly noted, Republicans have struggled in three consecutive national elections since Trump won the White House in 2016.

“If a political party can’t stay committed to their central premise, which is winning elections, then what’s the point?” said David Kochel, a veteran Republican strategist.

There is some evidence the GOP is ready to move on. A recent NBC poll found that 62% of Republicans said they considered themselves more a supporter of the party than of Trump, the highest number since the question was first polled in January 2019. Club for Growth, a conservative group once allied with Trump, circulated pollsshowing DeSantis with a healthy lead over the former president in Iowa and New Hampshire, the first two states on the path to the GOP nomination, as well as Florida and Georgia.

Christine Matthews, a pollster who has Republican clients, said the sense that primary voters ready to look beyond Trump is “very real,” driven by their belief that he is hobbled by his antagonistic relationship with the media.

“They’re able to justify moving on from him by saying, ‘The media will never give him a fair shot. They’ll always be against him. So even though we really like him and think his policies were great, it’s probably time for someone new,’” Matthews said.

So far, the consensus pick for that someone new is DeSantis, who offers the former president’s instinct for culture war combat in a less chaotic presentation. 

“DeSantis is the stock to buy, Trump is the stock to sell in politics,” said Matt Mackowiak, a Texas-based GOP strategist.

The most pressing challenge for DeSantis will be how to parry Trump’s attacks, Mackowiak said. The Florida governor “has survived a lot of attacks from a lot of people, but Trump is different. He just is.”

By announcing his bid before the Senate runoff race in Georgia next month, Trump risks even more of a rupture with his party if Republicans end up losing that race.

Many GOP operatives still smart over the Georgia Senate runoff in January 2021, when Trump’s fixation on his election loss dampened turnout among his supporters and Democrats went on to win the two races and control of the Senate. 

One of those victors, Sen. Raphael Warnock, is hoping Trump will have a similar effect on the electorate this time around. On Thursday, his campaign released an ad that is solely footage from Trump’s 2024 announcement, in which the former president endorses Warnock’s GOP challenger, Herschel Walker. The commercial ends with two taglines: “Stop Donald Trump” and “Stop Herschel Walker.”

Some of Trump’s onetime allies in conservative media have been withering in their criticism about his drag on the party after his preferred candidates flopped in key Senate and House races in last week’s election. The New York Post has been especially lacerating; the day following his 2024 kickoff, it tersely teased “Florida Man Makes Announcement” on the cover and buried the story about the speech on page 26 with the headline, “Been there, Don that.”

Other outlets greeted Trump’s candidacy with similarly unenthused headlines. “Trump 3.0 is a changed man — he’s now a loser,” said the Washington Examiner. “Oh, Trump Believes in Yesterday,” opined Karl Rove in the Wall Street Journal. The National Review’s take was simply titled, “No.”

“The way and force [with which] they’ve turned on him has blown my hair back,” said Howard Polskin, whose daily newsletter, TheRighting, rounds up headlines from the conservative media ecosystem.

But recent GOP history is full of cautionary tales about the challenges of reorienting the party, especially if its most committed voters aren’t on board.

In 2012, after two consecutive bruising presidential losses, party stalwarts decided it was necessary to remake Republicans’ image. Fox News’ Sean Hannity said he “evolved” in his thinking on immigration and endorsed a pathway to citizenship. The Republican National Committee commissioned what was widely called an autopsy, which prescribed softening stances on social issues and promoted immigration reform as a way to attract voters of color, young people and women. 

The Republican grassroots felt differently. Conservative shock jock Rush Limbaugh railed against the document. Four years later, the party backed a candidate whose hard-line immigration stance could be summed up with the phrase, “Build the Wall.”

“We were projecting what we thought was going to be best for the party onto the voters, rather than listening to what the voters wanted and trying to fashion a party that appeals to them,” said Tim Miller, a former RNC official who worked on the report.

For years, party leaders tried to steer conservatives to more electable candidates, leading to John McCain and Mitt Romney becoming the GOP nominees. Both lost in the general election.

“Donald Trump broke the mystique” of that strategy, Miller said, by being a candidate who gave the grassroots what they wanted and still won a general election. Now, “it’s hard to see them buying an electability argument again,” said Miller, who has been a fierce Trump critic.

Despite myriad commentators and editorials decrying Trumpism as a cause for the most recent GOP disappointments, some supporters of the former president haven’t been persuaded.

“Blaming President Trump is preposterous,” said Celeste Greig, a longtime GOP activist from Northridge. She said the fault lies more with poor campaign efforts by local and state parties.

Greig said that in her wide network of conservative stalwarts, “I haven’t found any of my friends, any of my acquaintances, that said he shouldn’t run.”

For all the high-profile breaks from Trump, others were quick to show their support. Grassroots favorites such as Reps. Jim Jordan of Ohio and Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia swiftly endorsed Trump’s 2024 bid. Sen.-elect J.D. Vance of Ohio, who won the primary thanks to the former president’s backing, penned an op-ed titled, “Don’t Blame Trump.” 

“What will be critical to watch will be how Fox News prime time treats him,” said Polskin, who tracks conservative media. “They are by far the biggest megaphone in the biggest right-wing media universe.” 

The crowded right-wing media ecosphere may also pressure some of the bigger outlets to return to Trump’s camp. When Fox News recognized Biden’s 2020 win, Trump publicly bashed the channel and urged his supporters to move to smaller, more hard-line channels — OAN and Newsmax — and Fox’s ratings plunged

Even if this current antagonistic tone persists from major outlets, a vast array of podcasts, streaming shows and conservative websites will continue to generate plenty of Trump-aligned content.

“We’re in a new media terrain,” said Heather Hendershot, professor of film and media at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, contrasting the monolithic audience in the network era to the current fractured media landscape. “You can’t point back to as splintered a moment as it is today.”

That’s a reason Korsgaden, the committed Trump fan, has not been swept up in the DeSantis fervor of the major conservative outlets. He is not a fan of Trump’s swipes at the Florida governor, but he thinks DeSantis has plenty of time for a White House bid in the future. And good luck to any media personality or party leader who tries to convince him otherwise.

Click here to read the full article on LA Times

California Governor Urges Overhaul of Democrats’ Strategy

California Gov. Gavin Newsom called for an overhaul of Democrats’ political strategy on Saturday, saying the party is “getting crushed” by Republicans in part because they are too timid, often forced to play defense while Republicans “dominate with illusion.”

Speaking at the Texas Tribune Festival in Austin, Texas — the territory of Republican Gov. Greg Abbott, 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 may have worked for the party in the past — like Michele Obama’s famous quip “when they go low, we go high,” — simply don’t work today because “that’s not the moment we’re living in right now.”

“These guys are ruthless on the other side,” Newsom said. “Where are we? Where are we organizing, bottom up, a compelling alternative narrative? Where are we going on the offense every single day? They’re winning right now.”

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

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

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

Newsom’s actions have increased speculation he might be 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 keep asking.”

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 not enough to win elections — adding that “otherwise Biden would be at 75% approval.” In reality, about 53% of U.S. adults disapprove of Biden, according to the most recent poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.

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

“We missed a more important paradigm that leadership is not defined by that person in formal authority, it’s defined by people with moral authority every single day,” he said.

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

“If you stress that they’re right-wingers, you call them extremists, using that kind of language, all you are going to do is enhance their popularity in their own base,” he said.

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

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

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What proposed laws are imperiled by Gov. Newsom’s rumored presidential ambitions?

SB 57 was supposed to help addicts, but critics decried legal drug dens

He’s trolling red-state Republican governors with attack ads, picking fights over the country’s most hot-button issues and calling out political “bullies” in a baseball cap to cover up his usually-coiffed hair.

Despite all the signs, Gov. Gavin Newsom insists he’s not running for president.

But a very high-profile veto message this past week quickly had both critics and some supporters asking if the proud progressive governor has suddenly started weighing how his decisions in Sacramento will go over with more moderate voters in places like Iowa and New Hampshire, the first stops on any presidential hopeful’s road to the White House.

Newsom vetoed SB 57, which would have allowed Oakland, San Francisco and Los Angeles to open supervised injection sites for drug addicts. It seemed like the kind of out-of-the-box approach to a vexing social problem that Newsom would embrace.

As San Francisco’s mayor in 2004, he made national headlines marrying gay couples when most fellow Democrats clung to the tradition that only a man and woman could tie the knot. So this past week when he rejected SB 57, critics blamed his rumored presidential ambitions – and his fear of attack ads decrying his state’s legal drug dens.

“We are incredibly disappointed and heartbroken that Governor Newsom has put his own political ambitions ahead of saving thousands of lives and vetoed this critical legislation,” Jeannette Zanipatin, California state director of the Drug Policy Alliance, said in a statement after the veto.

With the Legislature wrapping up its latest session this week, there are dozens of bills from California’s left-leaning Democrats headed to the governor’s desk that could signal whether Newsom is concerned about his appeal to more moderate voters. Those include bills that would make it easier for felons to pass background checks and require judges to consider alternatives to jail when sentencing offenders.

None pose as big of a threat to his national aspirations as the safe injection site bill, political experts agree.

“This was definitely the biggest obstacle on the road to New Hampshire,” said veteran political analyst Dan Schnur.

Claremont McKenna College political science Professor Jack Pitney said it would be “easy to write the script for the attack ad” on SB 57. Opposition researchers would have a trove of visuals at their disposal of addicts passed out on the streets of San Francisco, where the city’s liberal voters in June overwhelmingly recalled their district attorney who’d campaigned on alternatives to jail for offenders.

With even progressives pushing back when it comes to crime and quality of life, Pitney said, Newsom has to be wary of bills that could feed a narrative that he’s soft on crime.

“Particularly when it comes to crime policy, he has to reflect on what happened to Michael Dukakis,” Pitney said.

Dukakis was the Massachusetts governor and Democratic presidential nominee whom Republican George H.W. Bush clobbered in a 1988 campaign that hammered on Dukakis’ veto of a bill that would have ended prison furloughs for murderers. Bush supporters ran ads calling out a Maryland rape by furloughed Massachusetts murder convict Willie Horton.

Pitney in a column earlier this month noted similarities between Newsom and Dukakis, who had won reelection in a landslide and was lauded for pushing progressive policies while balancing budgets. Both Democrats, Pitney wrote, suffer “Blue Bubble Syndrome” from spending their political lives in comfortably blue states. Progressive crime policies applauded by social justice activists might land with a thud among voters who have shown heightened concern about declining public safety and quality of life.

To that end, SB 731, which has passed the Legislature and would expand expungement of felony arrest and conviction records so people can more easily pass background checks, “could become a political liability,” Pitney said.

“Newsom may well sign it, but with the awareness that it is politically risky,” he said.

With Newsom so comfortably ahead in the polls, there’s not much focus on his re-election campaign this November. Instead, even though Newsom has said his longtime political ally, Vice President Kamala Harris, should be next in line after President Biden, his name is front and center about running for the White House in 2024. Polls show Biden and Harris are unpopular, even among Democrats, and that Newsom would be a viable alternative should Biden and Harris bow out.

Newsom’s Republican reelection opponent, state Sen. Brian Dahle, said he was “thankful SB 57 was vetoed” and “appalled” it even made it to Newsom’s desk. But he said others are on their way, like SB 2167, which would require judges to seek alternatives to incarceration.

“I voted NO! Enough is enough,” Dahle said on Twitter.

Another crime and drug-related bill Newsom may be wary of is SB 519, which in its early language would have decriminalized possession of hallucinogenic drugs by adults 21 and older including LSD, Ecstasy, mescaline and psilocybin mushrooms. The current version of the bill would merely require a study on doing that.

“If you were worried about being Governor Psychedelic,” said Thad Kousser, a UC San Diego political science professor, “I can see the campaign poster with Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin.”

Bill Whalen, a Hoover Institution fellow who worked in the administration of former Republican Gov. Pete Wilson and has consulted for former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and former Los Angeles Mayor Richard J. Riordan, said a number of pandemic policy bills also may give Newsom pause.

Newsom ordered the first statewide stay-home order in March 2020, oversaw the most extensive school closures and some of the longest-lasting face mask mandates, and called for California to be the first state to require COVID-19 vaccines for children to attend school.

He has touted his pandemic policies as life-savers over Republican-led states that took a more hands-off approach. But at a time when most of the nation has moved on from pandemic concerns, more mandates from Sacramento may leave a bad taste among voters across the country.

“If you want to cobble together 270 electoral votes, I don’t think you want to get bogged down in a mask issue,” Whalen said.

A couple of the most controversial bills, SB 1464, to require local law enforcement to enforce mask mandates, and SB 871, to mandate COVID-19 vaccines for schoolkids, haven’t made it out of committee. But another bill, SB 866, that would let teens age 15-17 get the vaccine without their parents’ consent continues to move through the Legislature.

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