Former President Clinton will back San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom (D) for California governor over Attorney Gen. Jerry Brown (D), "potentially upending" next year's Democratic governor's race, reports ABC News. Clinton's decision to endorse Newsom -- one of his wife's top backers in her presidential campaign last year -- comes at a critical time for the San Franciso mayor since he's trailing Brown in most polls and in money raised.
I live in the SF Bay Area, and while Oakland is a much scarier place than San Francisco, Jerry Brown seems to have had much greater success in improving the city than Newsom had in SF. Newsom has largely been useless as Mayor of San Francisco, and his interventions into the gay marriage debate have probably set the cause back about 5-10 years. The combination of his issuance of marriage licenses in defiance of state law in 2004 were a huge part of what catalyzed the gay marriage issue in that election, and his regrettable comments in the last election similarly catalyzed supporters of Prop 8 and brought an end to the great period of gay marriage in our state. He's rather a doofus, a poor manager, and a loudmouth who pops off way too often. He's sort of like John McCain, in other words, but minus the heroic military record.
Then again, Bill Clinton's influence has been severely diminished among progressives since last year's red-faced finger-wagging tour, and his endorsement might not make much of a difference. This seems like an attempt to try to rebuild the Clintons' influence within the party, but sadly the Clintons' influence is already being felt in the Democratic Party to this day (I'm looking at you, Senate Agriculture Committee Chair Blanche Lincoln). Newsom is, at heart, a DLC-style Democrat who has managed to style himself a progressive hero because of his gay marriage gambit five years ago, one that backfired tremendously, in my opinion. At the end of the day, I suspect Clinton's endorsement isn't going to be enough. California Democratic politics are heavily dependent on approval from local elites, and in particular, the big unions (nurses, teachers, prison workers, etc.), and those groups have longstanding relationships with Brown and do not (to my knowledge) have them with Newsom. It's actually rather maddening, to be honest, and it's the reason why we've only had two Democratic governors in forty years, but it might work out well in this case. Somehow, I doubt that Clinton is going to rent an office in Sacramento and try to cultivate the head of every union local and local politician, and I really suspect that he'd need to in order to get the nomination for Newsom. Betting on a losing horse seems...weird...though I suppose this is the much-vaunted Clinton loyalty machine. No doubt Clinton will be angry at Newsom when he winds up supporting someone over Chelsea Clinton in 2028, as well.
I'm favoring Brown at this point, and I think it's more than likely he'll win the nomination and the general election (easily). Schwarzenegger is unpopular, and he's taken most of the blame for the recent troubles in the state, which aren't all his fault, though he's certainly not done a great job proposing remedies (despite his general moderation, when it comes to economics, Arnie is very right-wing). The state's GOP is extreme and reckless--basically, the state becomes Idaho after you travel a certain distance inland--and Jerry Brown, despite the drubbings he got in the 1970s, was actually a good, moderate, fiscally sound governor, and he understands the peculiar, libertarian-inflected liberalism of the Golden State quite well. So I say he should get another shot at the desk, myself, and I think the odds are good that he will.
Of course, I might be persuaded to back Dianne Feinstein for governor if she ran, if for no other reason than that it moves her out of the Senate and into a job that fits her ideology and popularity much better.