Bill Clinton Throws Weight Behind Gavin Newsom. 'This Doesn't Suck,' Quips Political Analyst.

Categories: Politics


The big political news of the day is that President Bill Clinton will officially endorse Mayor Gavin Newsom's campaign for governor of this state. You don't have to be a conspiracist to see the politics in these politics: Newsom was an unabashed Hillary Clinton loyalist and Bill Clinton and Jerry Brown didn't exactly tee it off during their 1992 competition in the Democratic Presidential Primary (see above -- and wince).

But, still, this is President Clinton here -- it's a big deal. We called a pair of San Francisco political analysts to gauge how big a deal this is. One opined "This doesn't suck!" and another exclaimed "Exciting news for Gavin Newsom!"

"I don't want to downplay it. It's a pretty cool endorsement," said David Latterman of San Francisco's Fall Line Analytics. "The question is -- will it overcome all the institutional problems Gavin has been having? This is a seriously important Democratic endorsement. But will it lead to others? Is Clinton the first domino? He's a big-ass domino."

Jim Ross, a San Francisco political consultant who ran Newsom's first campaign for mayor (before, shall we say, parting ways with Newsom politically) said the gravity of the Clinton endorsement depends on how hard Clinton is willing to work for Newsom.

"If Clinton is willing to do events, that's going to have a significant effect. If not, it's just a nice news story," he said.

The former president is expected to begin raking in the bucks for Newsom in a couple of Los Angeles events next month. Both analysts contacted by SF Weekly said that's a great start -- but only a start.

"The example I'd use is, look how far Oprah went for Obama -- is Bill Clinton going to throw down like that?" asked Ross. "He'll show up at some events. This is not a bad thing. But is it the shot of life Gavin Newsom needed? I don't know it necessarily changes anything."

Latterman also felt that how much time Clinton can spare -- and cash he can raise -- is the real key. "Bill will do some pretty cool events with Newsom and then what? It's still September."

While Newsom's camp would be happy to portray this endorsement as the cure for all that ails the mayor's woes, Newsom is still sitting on only one-seventh of Brown's war chest (and Brown will be able to raise far, far more from even his existing donors once he declares for governor) and is spending money hand over fist. And he's way down in the polls. But, again, Clinton can help in many of the areas Gavin is most vulnerable.

In addition to his fund-raising prowess, Clinton is still popular with the state's black and Latino voters.

"Obviously, polling shows Newsom is losing in pretty much every category -- and Clinton can help him in exactly the demographics he needs," said Latterman. "Older union voters, Latino voters -- remember, the Democratic primary voters are more the AARP, union loyalists. They have a lot of loyalty to Newsom as well. And it really doesn't hurt that Clinton is back in the news with North Korea."

So this is a good development for Newsom. How good it will be depends on what comes next. "This doesn't suck," quipped Latterman. 

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