California Gov. Gavin Newsom physically recoiled at the idea that the Democratic Party’s top talent is out “propping up” Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, part of an animated, high-speed one-on-one interview with Chris Cuomo on his NewsNation show that aired Wednesday night.
Newsom, long rumored to be angling for a run at the White House in 2024, seems to have shifted from shadow challenger into vigorous cheerleader mode — at least for now — as the “Cuomo” host grilled him relentlessly on the weaknesses of the Biden campaign status quo. At one point, the former CNN anchor asked point-blank why Newsom was suddenly pushing a Biden-or-bust message.
“I have deep respect, reverence for Joe Biden, as a person… his character, his decency, and his capacity to do great things,” Newsom said. “That’s why. I’m not worthy of that conversation. This guy deserves it. And we, as members of the party, deserve to have his back.”
Cuomo pushed back somewhat, suggesting Newsom as a candidate would solve many Democrats’ concerns, and pointing to the success of Republican grievance messaging: “The Republicans are saying, ‘Look at the grocery store, look at the gas pumps and look at basically just how he performs – and you’re losing on that argument.”
Newsom doubled down hard on the bipartisan spending bills, employment statistics and other things that Biden and Kamala Harris can point to as accomplishments, suggesting at one point that as a politician, Biden is like Michael Jordan.
“On the court, I think we have [Michael] Jordan,” he said. “I’m for the performance on the court. And [Biden] is producing those results every single day with all that heat coming in, all that, you know, just the smash-mouth, surround-sound, anger industry that’s been built around this guy 24/7, defining the terms of opposition, 24/7, disciplined, and focused. He’s producing these results!”
Cuomo then turned to Harris, whose historically low approval ratings are seen as a drag on Biden’s poll numbers, particularly with the age issue weighing as heavy as it does. He asked whether she is the right running mate for Biden.
“Of course she is… on the basis of being able to lay claim to the success and the record of the Biden administration,” Newsom said. “She can’t — you can’t claim that, I can’t claim that. The Biden-Harris administration. She gets to talk about the 13.5 million jobs, she gets to talk about $1.7 trillion reduction of the deficit and a trillion dollars as part of the debt deal. She gets to talk about the success of the Infrastructure Act and the CHIPS and Science Act. She gets to talk about the bipartisan dealmaking of this administration because she’s a member of the administration.”
Cuomo stirred some anxiety in Newsom when he pressed him about his own presidential ambitions, including the drumbeat of visits, ads and billboards in red states — which the California governor said he placed to alleviate his personal “frustrations” with those places.
But Cuomo really got Newsom squirming in his seat when he suggested that the Democrats might be giving the appearance of “propping up” Biden, who doesn’t maintain the same pace of public appearances as presidents’ past.
“What it looks like, is you’re propping him up,” Cuomo said. “Here’s Newsom, now and they’re going to get all the big names. And here comes Obama and here comes — they gotta prop up Biden because he can’t do it all by himself.”
“No. No. No,” Newsom responded. “Come on. That’s what campaigns are about, that’s what parties are about.”
Throughout the interview, it was as if an occult hand moved to put Newsom back on message: Just talk about the results.
“At the end of the day, I’m about someone to put the best team on the field and for someone who actually produced the best result,” Newsom countered. “And I’ve seen 2.5 years of a master class at results-making.”
Watch the entire clip in the video above.