Bill Clinton to Back Gavin Newsom for California Governor Over 1992 Rival Jerry Brown

Former president's endorsement called "potential game-changer."

ByABC News
September 14, 2009, 5:04 PM

Sept. 15, 2009— -- Former President Bill Clinton is backing San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom for California governor over state Attorney Gen. Jerry Brown, potentially upending next year's Democratic race to succeed Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger.

"This is huge. It's a potential game-changer," said Ben Tulchin, a California-based pollster who is unaligned in the 2010 governor's race.

Clinton's decision to appear on Oct. 5 alongside one of his wife's top backers in her campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination comes at a critical time for the San Franciso mayor: Although Newsom has built a substantial Facebook and Twitter following among younger voters, Brown, a former two-term governor, has raised more than twice as much money as he has.

Clinton's trip to California next month is expected to include an event in predominantly Latino East Los Angeles as well as a high-dollar fundraiser.

While the endorsement of a former president is big news in any state, the former chairman of the California Democratic Party thinks it could be especially significant in California, a state where Clinton has had a strong following ever since he beat Brown in the state's 1992 presidential primary.

"There has never been a former president who has endorsed a candidate in a primary for statewide office in California," said Art Torres, a former state lawmaker who headed the California Democratic Party from 1995 until earlier this year but is neutral in the current race.

"In 1992, Bill Clinton beat Jerry Brown in California by 7 points. He then beat Bush by 13 points in the general," Torres said. "And then in last year's presidential campaign, Hillary [Clinton] beat Obama by 9 points including a 67-to-32 margin among Latinos."