Monday, March 9, 2009

Newsom Rides the Media Circuit to the Commonwealth Club

San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom has been popping up in some unlikely places lately. He appeared last week as a panelist on HBO's Real Time with Bill Maher, is slated to speak in Oakland tomorrow night and even chatted with the mortal enemy of "San Francisco liberal Democrats" Sunday morning on Fox News. It seems Newsom's exploratory foray into a possible run for governor is in high gear, to be topped with a conversation at The Commonwealth Club of California Wednesday night. (Check out recent appearances of the mayor on MSNBC's Morning Joe here and CNN Newsroom here.)

Newsom's increased visibility during the past week might be designed to increase an early Field Poll that gave the liberal Democrat just 10 percent of the vote. To be fair, the poll was questionable, because it included Sen. Dianne Feinstein who has declined to state whether she will run (yet she still topped the poll with 38 percent).

The HBO appearance may be instructive about how Newsom plans to run as the progressive candidate on the Democratic side. On the show, he spoke candidly on topics such as gay marriage and medical marijuana (unequivocally supporting both) and skillfully wove his talking points regarding his accomplishments in the city. Though Newsom was an early supporter of Sen. Hillary Clinton's presidential aspirations, he might stand to benefit from the coattails of President Obama's liberal resurgence across the country. One theme likely to be espoused by Newsom in the race is his talking point touting the existence of universal health care in his city. If President Obama follows through on his pledge to offer health-care legislation nationally by mid-year or later, Newsom might get a bounce. And as one of the first politicians to stick his neck out for gay marriage, the mayor might lead the way on two popular statewide issues that could vault him from a dark horse candidate to serious contender.

Former Governor (and former just about everything in California politics) Jerry Brown is hoping to represent the state's future with an eye at its past. The other challenger, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, suffered somewhat of a letdown last week despite winning re-election. With only 15 percent of the electorate voting, Villaraigosa garnered just 128,000 votes, raising statewide electability questions.

If Newsom's past media appearances are any indication, his remarks at the Commonwealth Club should be candid -- and palatable to the hometown San Francisco audience.

--Steven Tavares


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