Democrats are still wondering whether President Biden is the best candidate to lead them into the 2024 election.
And whether they win or lose with Biden at the top of the ticket next year, the party will eventually need to find a new leader.
Last night, California Governor Gavin Newsom came to Fox News to be that leader.
But his polling numbers show that if he wants to be the new face of the left, he has an upward climb ahead of him.
In fact, the California governor shares weak levels of support with Biden across the board. There is just one notable difference between the current and would-be commander-in-chief.
In California, voters do not like Newsom any more than Biden
President Biden’s national approval rating is often lower than Governor Newsom’s approval in California, but that comparison obviously isn’t fair, since the governor’s home state leans more blue than the country does.
Instead, we can compare the two leaders’ approval ratings only in California. If Newsom is a more popular political figure, then his rating should be higher than Biden’s.
According to recent survey data, Newsom’s approval rating in California is the same as the president’s rating. Biden sits at 45% approval and 51% disapproval in an October Berkeley/IGS survey, while Newsom sits at an all-time low of 43% approval and 49% disapproval.
Newsom also performs about the same as Biden with voting groups that are key to a Democratic win:
- Women give Biden 45% and Newsom 46%
- Suburban voters give Biden 44% and Newsom 41%
- Black voters give Biden 53% and Newsom 57%
- Moderates give Biden 41% and Newsom 38%
It is possible that as Newsom introduces himself to the country, he will become more popular outside his home state than within? So far, we are absent data to prove that.
If Newsom were on the ballot against Trump, there is no evidence so far that he would perform better than Biden
In a Fox News survey conducted this November, Biden received 46% to Trump’s 50% among registered voters in a head-to-head matchup, a statistically insignificant four-point margin between the two candidates.
In a hypothetical matchup between Newsom and Trump, the California Governor receives 45% support with Trump at 49%, also a 4 point margin.
It’s a similar story among the key voting groups versus Trump:
- Biden gets 50% of women, Newsom gets 49%
- Biden gets 49% of suburban voters, Newsom gets 55%
- Biden gets 69% of Black voters, Newsom also gets 69%
- Biden gets 49% of moderates, Newsom gets 50%
These figures suggest that both Biden and Newsom are attracting the base party vote and not much else. In other words, they are receiving support from voters who will always choose the Democratic Party candidate, no matter which name is on the ticket.
Newsom would need to make inroads with moderates, independents and/or undecided voters to separate himself from Biden.
. . . But Newsom is much younger than Biden
The clear difference between the two candidates is age.
Large majorities say Biden is too old to serve. That includes voters in the battleground states, and key Democratic-leaning voting groups. According to an early November New York Times Times/Siena poll:
- Overall, 71% of voters in battleground states say Biden is “just too old to be an effective president.” In the same states:
- 74% of women voters agree
- 69% of voters in suburban areas agree
- 56% of Black voters agree
Pollsters haven’t asked whether Newsom is too old to be an effective president, but with Newsom at 56 years old and Biden at 81, they don’t need to.
Televised debates between politicians not running against each other are rare. (According to the Los Angeles Times, the last one took place in 1967, between California’s then-Governor Ronald Reagan and New York’s Senator Robert F. Kennedy.)
It is hard to imagine that Newsom would command enough national political attention to warrant a primetime television debate without Biden’s age problem.
That vulnerability will not go away as Election Day draws closer.