Big-name backing may do little for mayor

Even though a big name — former President Bill Clinton — has stepped up to help Mayor Gavin Newsom in his gubernatorial bid, political insiders say the early endorsement shows Newsom’s campaign is struggling.

News broke early Tuesday that Clinton — who also endorsed Newsom in his first mayoral run — will attend two of the mayor’s campaign events in Los Angeles on Oct. 5. One of the joint appearances will be a fundraiser for the Democratic primary.

“President Clinton’s record of achievement as president and as a senior statesman is inspiring to all Democrats,” Newsom said in a statement.

Clinton also stepped in to Newsom’s first run for mayor in 2003 at the last minute. Newsom then backed the former president’s wife, Hillary, in her unsuccessful bid for the White House.

Now, Clinton’s involvement shows the campaign is grasping for ways to get ahead of likely foe Attorney General Jerry Brown, according to political analysts.

“Bill is doing this for Gavin, he’s friends with Gavin,” political analyst David Latterman said.

Newsom is trailing Brown in fundraising and has also been behind him in polls.

“I recognize that I don’t have the name ID that the former governor does,” Newsom said. “I have to work harder and smarter. Mark my words, these … polls are going to change dramatically over the course of the next couple of months.”

Even so, Latterman and other analysts were surprised the mayor pulled the Clinton card so early in the game.

“Normally you’d want to roll out a huge endorsement like this in the closing days,” analyst Jim Ross said.

“The recent poll, the fact that they’re having a hard time raising money, all those things are indications that they’re trying to change the dynamic of the race.”

Since Newsom threw his hat in the governor’s race in April, his campaign has already undergone three shifts in strategy, he said.

The first was becoming the Internet-savvy candidate, having announced his intention to run on the social-networking site Twitter. The second was the strategy of “we’re going to go negative on the Jerry Brown.” And the third, apparently, is the “rolling out the big endorsements,” Ross said.

Ben Tulchin, founder and president of Tulchin Research, said the timing of the endorsement is good for Newsom.

“If you look at Gavin Newsom’s campaign, he was struggling. He wasn’t raising enough money to compete, he had a staff shake-up, everything seemed to be working against him,” Tulchin said. The Clinton endorsement “breathes new life into his campaign,” Tulchin said.

There are still major obstacles for Newsom. The mayor right now is not financially capable of toppling Brown, Ross said.

“They don’t have the $2 million a week it costs to buy television in the state of California,” he said. “You can’t make up the gap that exists right now with Jerry Brown without raising money.”

maldax@sfexaminer.com

Bay Area NewsLocal

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