ABC News

(COLUMBIA, S.C.) — California Gov. Gavin Newsom said in a new interview that Democrats are right to fear the possible reelection of former President Donald Trump as he and other allies of President Joe Biden seek to create a clear “contrast” heading into November’s general election.

Speaking to ABC News “This Week” co-anchor Jonathan Karl in an interview that aired Sunday, Newsom both lambasted Trump’s refusal to concede the 2020 election results and praised Biden’s record since taking office — a strategy the Biden campaign is expected to highlight in the months ahead as the president confronts persistently low approval ratings and poor early polling against Trump.

“Here’s a guy who lost the election — Trump — and tried to wreck the country. He’s lighting democracy on fire, he’s making democracy a partisan issue. I never imagined that in my lifetime,” Newsom told Karl in South Carolina, where he was stumping for Biden.

“So the consequences are profound and pronounced,” Newsom said, “and that’s why I’m down here because this race is started.”

That’s also why, Newsom said, “We need to lift up the issues, the successes, these extraordinary successes of the last three years, the Biden-Harris administration. And then we drive contrast. It’s not even a complicated campaign.”

Nonetheless, Karl pressed Newsom on why, if Biden’s record is as strong as Newsom feels it is, Biden’s approval ratings remained mired in the 30s in most polls.

“Look, it’s been hard globally, the last six, seven years.” Newsom responded. “But again, America stands tall. We’re the tentpole of the world economy — no peers economically, again a masterclass of delivery. The economy is booming, inflation is cooling. … He’s delivered.”

Still, the governor acknowledged the polls and said, “I’m not naive about this. I take the threat of Trump and Trumpism very seriously.”

But Trump’s legal challenges, including 91 charges, all of which he denies, could harm his standing in the eyes of the general electorate, Newsom said.

He pointed to some polls that indicate voters will be turned off if Trump were to be convicted.

“This is the weakest candidate to run a major party in my lifetime. He’s coming in deeply damaged. Democrats, we win. We keep winning. We’ve won all of these elections, post-Dobbs different world,” Newsom said, referencing the 2022 Supreme Court decision that eliminated constitutional protections for abortion and gave new political importance to abortion access.

Trump “is weak,” Newsom contended. “He is more unhinged than he’s ever been. He’s less disciplined than he’s ever been. He’s less interesting. I find him just less interesting. He’s not even as entertaining as he was in 2020 and 2016.”

On the other hand, Newsom also sought to swat away worries over Biden’s age (at 81 years old, a consistent sore spot for voters), pointing to the president’s increasing travel schedule.

Newsom did voice concerns over the potential impact of third-party candidates in the 2024 race, like from a hypothetical bipartisan ticket by the group No Labels. But he said Democrats should address any worries by ensuring that their own voters turn out later this year.

“We have to be worried. But you know what? You got to control the controllables. You got to control what you have to control. And right now, it’s getting the vote out,” he said.

Newsom, a border-state governor, lambasted the position of many Republicans in Washington who say that Biden has badly mismanaged immigration and the southern border and, as such, is not a viable partner on enacting any border reforms despite Biden asking for more resources and being open to some changes.

“They refuse to act,” he told Karl. “They’re just promoting an agenda to disrupt and find a crowbar, to put in the spokes of the wheels of the Biden administration to disrupt any progress on this, because they don’t want progress — period.”

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