Money for CA Governor after Xi meeting
DeSantis debate to come
Biden's polling must worry Democrats
A new candidate has entered the Democratic Primary. Dean Phillips, a Congressman from Minnesota, is given little hope of success by Betfair markets. Odds of 180.0179/1 and 250.0249/1 imply less than a 1% chance to be either Democrat Nominee or Election Winner.
Whilst Phillips simply isn't a serious candidate and is apparently backed by Republican money, the purpose of his bid may have an impact. It is to highlight doubts about Joe Biden's viability as a candidate, to spam the airwaves in key states and encourage others to enter the race.
Money still coming for Newsom
Simultaneously, there is a sustained gamble underway about an alternative to Biden. California Governor Gavin Newsom has been matched at new lows for the presidency at 9.08/1 (11%), before settling around 12.011/1.
This is an extraordinary situation given Newsom has already endorsed Biden, strongly praises his achievements and shows no sign of entering the primary. What's going on?
Doubts persist about Biden
In short, bettors simply refuse to accept Biden's nomination as a fait accompli. A year out from the election, they fear age, ill health or stubbornly low approval ratings will take their toll and force a rethink. Either on his part, or among Democrat power-brokers. By virtue of his positioning, Newsom is assumed to be the likeliest alternative.
This sort of gamble isn't unprecedented. Recent presidential elections are famous for wild gambles and conspiracy theories, involving people not even in the race. Indeed, Biden himself was a popular pick in 2016, frequently backed at single-figure odds, despite never challenging Hillary Clinton. Even after she was confirmed as nominee and during the final week!
Whilst there is no evidence whatsoever that Biden has even considered standing aside, it is theoretically plausible. Had he not declared for a second term, and been adamant, he risked being left as a lame duck president, powerless as colleagues positioned themselves.
Could poor Biden polls force a rethink?
Such a decision need not be cast in stone. His polling is, frankly, grim. The future of democracy is literally on the ballot, with extremism, election denial and mass shootings prevalent. Democrats would be wise to keep their options open.
Given that time is running out for a realistic candidate to enter the primaries, this switch would need to happen at the convention, with delegates deciding.
So why Newsom? Well, simply because he is putting himself out there, offering all the signals of a would-be presidential candidate. He and Ron DeSantis have been sparring for months, and will debate on Fox News on 30th November. Last week, Newsom even met Chinese Premier Xi Jinping.
This follows another outing on Fox. Newsom's interview with Sean Hannity earned rave reviews among liberals. His national profile is rising rapidly and I do expect another good performance in the DeSantis debate. Newsom is polished and energetic.
Indeed both men will contrast well with their much older party leaders and one can't help but think they and Fox all share the same goal - to cancel Trump v Biden II.
However in addition to the unlikely and complicated path to victory, we must ask whether Newsom is what Democrat delegates and activists want. Here, evidence is sketchy. Check this hypothetical poll.
In an open primary, I think Kamala Harris would be near unbeatable. I just don't see a black, female VP being usurped by a Democrat primary electorate.
So for this to happen, it would require some sort of deal. That they are both from California and never ran against one another in any race previously, is a positive. It might be seen as humiliating to her to remain as VP, but realism about her own grim polls might set in.
Nevertheless, even with such a deal, there would surely be opposition. Veterans from the 2020 campaign such as Elizabeth Warren, Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar deserve to come into the argument.
As then, I believe Klobuchar is the ideal Democrat presidential candidate - a moderate woman from the Mid-West. Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer also ticks those boxes, but it is surely too late for her to build a national profile. The 2028 election is her plan.
In conclusion, I'm not writing Newsom off. The meeting with Xi Jinping was a particularly startling indicator. Whilst the nomination is Biden's to concede, the gravity of the situation in America might yet prompt a dramatic withdrawal.
In a contest with an ever more extreme and deranged Trump, I expect Newsom would win a landslide. But at these odds, this cannot be described as a value bet.
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