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Newsom Owns His COVID Mistakes...

This weekend, Gov. Gavin Newsom (D-CA) sat for an interview that we think was very interesting, given his obvious intent to run for president in 2028 (or 2024, if unusual things happen). It was with Meet the Press, and the primary subject was the Governor's management of the COVID pandemic.

In short, Newsom conceded that mistakes were made. But in contrast to the original utterer of that statement, namely Richard Nixon, the Governor really meant what he was saying and was willing to expand on the point. "I think we would've done everything differently," he remarked. "I think all of us in terms of our collective wisdom, we've evolved. We didn't know what we didn't know. We're experts in hindsight. We're all geniuses now." He also acknowledged that much of the criticism of his decision-making is on target and well deserved (though he largely avoided going into specifics as to things he could have done differently). If you want to watch for yourself, the full interview (approx. 40 minutes) is here.

We would suggest there are two basic interpretations of what is going on here. The less generous is that Newsom knows he's going to take incoming fire about his COVID management, once he's under the big microscope, and he's trying to get out ahead of it. The more generous is that Newsom's a reflective fellow who's willing to accept and acknowledge criticism. In truth, we think both are probably correct. But even if you assume the less charitable position, Newsom's words are still pretty unusual for a top-tier politician. Could you ever imagine, for example, Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) ever admitting to the slightest mistake? Can you imagine him ever saying "Yeah, I could have done better..."?

Being willing to be a little vulnerable like this is definitely playing with fire. A politician who fumbles—say, John Kerry—looks weak and unpresidential. On the other hand, a politician who gets it just right—Barack Obama was pretty good here, as was John F. Kennedy—can certainly win over a fair number of hearts and minds. Newsom sure looks like someone who knows how to play his hand correctly here.

When Newsom won reelection in a walk, we cautioned against reading too much into that, since Californians tend to love incumbents, and since his opponent was so mediocre. But the Governor has shown an awful lot of political skill since then, and some very impressive political instincts. He and Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D-MI) both look like they will be forces to reckon with in 2028. A Newsom/Whitmer ticket 2028 anyone? (Z)

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