The road to the Democrats winning back the White House goes right through San Francisco City Hall.
Can San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom pull off the electoral equivalent of a seismic event? The Dapper Dem mayor has the looks, charisma, smarts, Hollywood and monied connections to be the sole wild-card hopeful to derail the Hillary Express. He's only 38 years old.
He'd also be the youngest president since Kennedy. When the fifth-generation SF native became mayor in 2003, he was still married to television legal analyst Kimberly Guilfolye, and the local media gushed about the Camelot Couple. Now, he's dating another Hollywood hottie, actresss Sofia Milos.
All this makes for good gossip column fodder in the tabloids. But is the Coiffed One qualified to become the nation's Chief Executive? Will middle America ever forgive him, or at least, overlook his very blatant support of gay marriage? Won't Red Staters turn even more scarlet in moral outrage and apoplexy? The memory of seeing all those same-sex couples lining up for their marriage licenses at SF City Hall will seem more of a terrorist threat than Osama issuing his infrequent video jihadist tirades from some cave on the other side of the world. And just imagine the GOP attack ads; they will make the Swift Boat commercials look like syndicated "Love Boat" promos by comparison.
Here in the Bay Area, Newsom is riding high in local polls; his approval ratings hover in the upper stratosphere. He's a pro-business fiscal conservative with progressive bona fides. It's a high wire act in a hyper-liberal town. He must constantly deal with a politically contentious Board of Supervisors (where he served three terms) that's as fractious and divided as Iraq's fledgling government.
Still, homelessness and crime remain a big problem in Baghdad by the Bay. Furthermore, it's rumored that he has his eye on the governor's seat. Or perhaps the U.S. Senate. But why delay running for president? If Hillary somehow makes it past the GOP ring of ire, and then uses her White House incumbency to get re-elected, he will have squandered a decade waiting for the next opening. (Of course, if Hillary loses in 2008, that's another story, but why take that chance.) Newsom is already the darling of California's Democratic Party. At a recent confab in Sacramento, where he gave the kickoff speech to the Democrats statewide convention, the audience treated him with rock-star status.
Should he openly declare his presidential candidacy, there'd be four Bay Area women standing between him and the Oval Office. No wonder they call Democrats the Mommy Party. They are: House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, Senators Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein, and Susie Tompkins Buell, cofounder of Esprit and Hillary's deep-pocketed gal pal.
Feinstein wasn't too thrilled by Newsom's enthusiastic endorsement of gay marriage. She's a conservative on many social issues. Pelosi remains, at core, a don't-rock-the-boat centrist politican unless George W. Bush is in the same vessel. The junior senator Boxer is independent-minded but lacks Feinstein's gravitas. None of these women would like to disrupt the coronation of Queen H in 2008.
Yet, why is the press seemingly handing the scepter to Hillary? Who or what made this outcome inevitable? Isn't it a given that no matter how much triangulation she pursues, she's still permanently strangled by her own hawkish views on Iraq? Will the anti-war left allow her enough wiggle room? Can they forgive (but not forget)?
This pre-ordained sense of Hillary being a shoo-in as the Democratic nominee echoes the miscalculated and misguided notion of Kerry's electability. He zoomed through the 2004 primaries not because of what he believed in (what did he believe in?), but because he seemed like the only candidate with a fighting chance to beat Bush.
Newsom's entrance in the 2008 presidential election would create a firestorm of interest, sparking overnight the passion that Democrats are desperately begging for. New political faultlines will be established. Bloggers will mobilize their online battalions. It will be like a million eyeball march on D.C.
Newsom's inexperience in foreign policy can be easily fixed. Make Al Gore his running mate. We all know that the former vice president is absolutely dreadful on the campaign trail. So let's save him and ourselves the embarrassment and tortured spectacle of watching him pedantically flail about in debates and on the stump. (Al, there's nothing wrong about being a perennial Number Two. It's like Avis. )
Once elected, Newsom won't turn into a detached, incurious, semi-clueless delegator like Dubya. He's too smart, polished, articulate, and issues-oriented. Plus, he was a successful business entrepreneur before he entered politics when SF Mayor Willie Bown appointed him to the Parking and Traffic Commission in the mid 90s. Newsom made a pile of money in the private sector, whereas Bush experienced a string of failed oil ventures but was always being bailed out by his rich buddies. Wall Street will get behind Newsom.
There have been other SF mayors who've made the journey into the national limelight. Joseph Alioto delivered the speech nominating Hubert Humphrey at the Democratic National Convention in 1968. According to Wikipedia, "there were rumors that Humphrey would select Alioto as his running mate, but Humphrey selected Edmund Muskie."
We can all sleep soundly that Gore won't get all teary-eyed in New Hampshire.
The Clintons have a history of leaving behind former allies and supporters, bitterly twisting in the wind. Now the tables can be reversed. Bill campaigned for Gavin in his mayoral bid. Imagine the comeuppance that he and Hillary will feel! The betrayal! And worse, there's Al helping the young whippersnapper! Talk about an inconvenient truth!
Newsom-Gore in 2008. Try it on for size.