From prime time to Santa Cruz forest

Screenshot of Newsom speaking at the Democratic National Convention on Aug. 20.

Gov. Gavin Newsom was set to make the biggest appearance of his political career Thursday night — but things didn’t go as planned.
Newsom backed out of his prime-time speaking slot at the Democratic National Convention Thursday morning, citing the need to focus on wildfires raging across California. But his remarks had been pre-recorded, raising questions about why the governor — often thought to have presidential ambitions — would turn down his largest and most prestigious platform yet.
Then, minutes before he appeared in a cell phone video shot in the Santa Cruz forest near an evacuation center, Newsom announced he would be giving remarks after all.
  • Newsom: “Climate change is real. If you are in denial about climate change, come to California. … Just today, the President of the United States threatened … to defund our efforts on wildfire suppression because he said we didn’t rake enough leaves. Can’t make that up.”
By filming his appearance — which lasted less than three minutes — “on my way to one of our relief centers,” Newsom avoided criticism he likely would have received for an ambitious speech touting California’s diversity, innovation and progressive policies while its residents grapple with raging wildfires, rolling blackouts and delayed unemployment benefits.
But even if Newsom had appeared as planned, his national profile has been overshadowed and his path to the presidency complicated by another California politician: Kamala Harris, who accepted the Democratic Party’s vice presidential nomination Wednesday night.
  • Rose Kapolczynski, California Democratic strategist: If Joe Biden is elected, Harris “could be vice president or president for the next 16 years. … While she could choose her own vice president in 2028, it is not going to be another Californian. … (Newsom) could be running for president for the first time when he’s 68 years old.”
Alex Padilla was the only other Californian to appear Thursday night — a major opportunity for the Secretary of State, who may be gunning to fill Harris’ empty Senate seat if she and Biden win in November.