California voters want Biden to step aside — and see Newsom as a top contender to succeed him

·2 min read

Californians overwhelmingly do not want President Joe Biden to seek another term and see Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom as a prime contender to succeed him, according to a new poll.

Biden has long been on tenuous political ground as Democrats report frustration with their president and cast about for an alternative. That situation that has created an opening for ambitious Democrats like Newsom, who has denied interest in seeking the presidency in 2024 while working diligently to enlarge his national profile.

A new Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies poll of California voters underscored the peril for Biden and potential for Newsom. A resounding 61 percent of voters surveyed online Aug. 9-15 said Biden should not run in 2024, including about half of Democratic voters and most independents. The president’s statewide approval rating sat at a lukewarm 48 percent, with three-quarters of Californians saying the country was on the wrong track.

Newsom and Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-VT) — who finished first in the 2020 California primary — were tied as Democratic and independent voters’ top choice to replace Biden, followed by Vice President Kamala Harris. But the largest share of voters were undecided in an indication of the nebulous state of the 2024 race. Biden has said he intends to run again. For Newsom to have a path, Biden would need to step aside — and Newsom would potentially have to challenge Harris, with whom he shares a Bay Area base.

Those obstacles have not prevented Newsom from working to cultivate a broader audience. With his November reelection all but assured, Newsom has diverted money and attention to assailing Republican governors. Those broadsides have fueled skepticism about Newsom’s claim to have “subzero interest” in a presidential run.

He took out ads attacking Republican Govs. Ron DeSantis of Florida and Greg Abbott of Texas in their home states. He spent part of this week tangling with Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey on Twitter, then assailed Ivey and Abbott during a Thursday press conference about juvenile mental health.

In a sharp contrast to Democrats’ tepid views on Biden, Republican voters remain enthusiastic about former President Donald Trump even as California’s overall electorate rejected him. About two-thirds of California Republicans wanted Trump to run again, and the former president edged DeSantis as their top choice for 2024. Should Trump not run, DeSantis would be the clear frontrunner.