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After Being Re-elected, What Will Newsom Do?

A youthful Bill McKay (Robert Redford), who has just won one of California’s U.S. Senate seats, is seen asking his campaign manager (Peter Boyle) a question as “The Candidate,” the classic political film, comes to a close. Gavin Newsom, who easily won his second and last term as governor of California, might be asked the same question.

Now, What Does He Do?

Would he merely complete his second term, intensifying his campaign for a carbon-free economy and putting his novel solutions to California’s social problems into practice? Community schools, which turn neighborhood schools into hubs for health and welfare services, Care Court, which forces the seriously mentally ill to accept treatment, and CalAIM, which revamps the state’s medical care program for the underprivileged into a “whole person” initiative, are some of these initiatives.

Even if Joe Biden doesn’t run for re-election in 2024, Newsom has vowed to finish his second term and declare that he has “subzero interest” in doing so. But in recent months, Newsom has also invested a significant amount of his time and money into establishing a national reputation. He claims this is because he wants to set an example for his party by opposing Republicans forcefully.

The national political media and many Democratic Party leaders believe that Newsom is preparing for a White House run, possibly in 2024 or 2028, two years after his governorship ends, despite his repeated denials of such intentions.

In fact, it’s hard to imagine that Newsom, who has spent almost half his life steadily ascending the political ladder from San Francisco city commission appointee in 1996 to a seat on the city’s Board of Supervisors, then seven years as mayor, eight years in obscurity as lieutenant governor, and finally the governorship in 2018, would just go back to running his wine and restaurant business.

It’s also hard to believe that he would accept a less important political position, like a congressman or cabinet appointee. He has a colossal ego and a propensity for pursuing “big hairy ambitious goals,” like the experimental overhauls of education, mental health, and healthcare services outlined above, despite their so-so track records of success thus far. And the high office is required for that attitude.

There are two alternatives for him: to leave politics once serving his term is through or to run for president. However, if Dianne Feinstein decides to leave politics before her 32-year tenure is up, he may have a third choice: to run for the U.S. Senate in 2024.

Biden, who turns 80 this month, and/or Feinstein, 89, may decide to retire depending on how this year’s congressional and senatorial elections turn out after all the votes have been tallied. Two of the options — running for president or the Senate in 2024 — obviously depend on whether they are ready to do so.

Their retirements would become more likely if Republicans won control of either the House or the Senate or both. Feinstein, who is already facing criticism from progressives, would not want to be demoted to the Senate minority after spending so many years in the majority. Democratic activists could attribute the losses to Biden’s low popularity and demand that he step aside for a younger and more charismatic figure.

If Biden or Feinstein decide not to run, the issue that a fictional politician posed fifty years ago—what do we do now?—would become a harsh reality for Newsom. Timing is crucial in both high-level sports and politics. With three poorly timed presidential bids, Jerry Brown, Newsom’s quasi-uncle and predecessor as governor ruined his prospects of winning the White House.

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