Economy 01-12-2023 01:13 9 Views

Gavin Newsom 2028? His early moves offer a potential glimpse.

In the spring, California Gov. Gavin Newsom toured Mississippi, Alabama and Arkansas to push back against what he describes as “the rollback of progress” on civil, women’s and LBGTQ rights in red states. This fall, he popped up in Tel Aviv and Beijing, meeting with world leaders, promoting his climate agenda and gazing reflectively into the distance through his aviators during a walk along the Great Wall of China in a photo released by his staff. On Thursday, he will be in Georgia, in what is being billed as a debate against a conservative foil: Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.

Newsom, seen widely in the Democratic Party as a 2028 presidential-contender-in-waiting, isn’t doing all that much waiting. While other potential White House aspirants are quietly laying the groundwork for the future, the second-term governor has been more of an attention-seeking missile — darting across the country and the world stage as he courts a broad array of Democratic constituencies who could be helpful in a future presidential run.

President Biden’s decision to seek reelection in 2024 has put an ambitious new generation of Democrats in something of a holding pattern — with many joining the front lines of the efforts to support him as they seek to leave their own marks for the future. For Newsom, that has meant a series of appearances outside his home state regarded by some as savvy and derided by others as stunts.

But Newsom has relished his role as one of the party’s leading antagonists of Republican leaders and “going on offense” as he seeks to persuade voters to back the Democratic agenda in unfriendly territory like Fox News. “I don’t want to sit back passively,” he said in an interview with The Washington Post earlier this year describing his anger watching Republicans succeed in rolling what he views as basic civil rights in red states. “I want to get out there. I want to fight. I want to get in the dirt.”

Newsom’s effort to raise his national profile has carried risks and drawn mixed reviews from voters at home during a time when many Californians are concerned about the state’s homelessness and mental health crises and a looming budget crunch that could curtail the governor’s agenda in California.

“In terms of raising his profile and becoming more popular, better-known and more defined to Democratic primary voters, I think it’s going very well for him,” said Rob Stutzman, a California-based GOP strategist who has been a keen observer of Newsom, when asked about the governor’s activities outside the state. “But it clearly is not helping him at home.”

Pointing to a recent slide in Newsom’s approval ratings, Stutzman said the governor will need as much political capital as possible to drive his agenda in Sacramento during what is likely to be a tough budget year ahead. Stutzman also noted that there are perils inherent in the governor’s penchant for driving headlines (and raising money) through controversial proposals such as his push to restrict gun ownership with an amendment the U.S. Constitution: “There’s a bit of a reputation here of being a political stunt man,” he said.

Newsom’s approval rating among registered voters dropped to an all-time low of 44 percent in a recent poll by the Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies. Mark DiCamillo, director of the Berkeley IGS poll, noted that much of the erosion in Newsom’s approval rating was among independents.

When registered voters were asked whether they favored their governor taking on a more prominent role in national Democratic politics and traveling to events in other states to criticize the Republican Party, 70 percent of Democrats said they favored those efforts; 19 percent opposed them. But only 37 percent of independents approved and 47 percent were opposed.

“These no party preference voters are not all that keen on Newsom taking on this new role,” DiCamillo said. “They would rather that he just stick to California issues and solve the problems that the state is facing.”

But Newsom’s allies believe he can do both.

He has leveraged California’s position as the world’s fifth largest economy to promote his policy goals agenda abroad — meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing in October to push his climate agenda. And he has found ways to skillfully pair his public travels as governor with trips that have built his rapport with powerful constituencies in the Democratic Party.

Before his recent trip to China, for example, Newsom made a surprise visit to Israel — meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the midst of the Israel-Hamas war and visiting with the parents of a Californian who was being held hostage in Gaza, as well as other victims targeted by Hamas. In a statement from Tel Aviv, he reflected on the “deep connections between my home state and this country.”

In Georgia on Thursday night, the California governor — who routinely deflects questions about his 2028 ambitions — will face off against DeSantis in his capacity as a surrogate for the Biden campaign. Fox News has billed the event, which airs from 9 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. Eastern time, as “The Great Red vs. Blue State Debate.”

The 90-minute showdown, which will not have an in-person audience, will be hosted by Sean Hannity, who Fox News said will bring up a range of issues for discussion. It is taking place on the sidelines of the emerging battle between the two likely 2024 nominees — Biden, who has nominal opposition on the Democratic side, and Donald Trump, who is polling more than 40 points ahead of his closest GOP rivals, including DeSantis.

But it will provide another welcome splash of attention for both DeSantis and Newsom.

DeSantis is hoping for a jolt of momentum to resurrect his struggling 2024 presidential campaign. In talking points shared with surrogates this week, DeSantis campaign officials argued that Newsom’s California is “the model for American decline” as the state’s residents deal with crime, high taxes and “woke-ism being the law of the land.” They described the debate as a chance for DeSantis to argue that voters are facing a choice next year that will determine whether America falls “further into decline” or experiences “a revival” — arguing that Newsom and Biden share the same playbook.

DeSantis’s campaign manager, James Uthmeier, argued in a statement that “a Newsom presidency would accelerate America’s decline, and November 30th will be the first chance to expose to a national audience just how dangerous his radical ideology would be for the country.”

Newsom, who declined to comment on his objectives before the debate, has trolled DeSantis for the past year-and-a-half as a “bully” who has molded Florida into an “authoritarian regime.”

With fiery social media posts and ad campaigns financed by his Campaign for Democracy PAC, he has targeted DeSantis’s efforts to limit discussions of LGBTQ issues and reshape the way history is taught in Florida’s classrooms, as well as the bill DeSantis signed curtailing access to abortion in Florida after six weeks of pregnancy, following the Supreme Court’s decision overturning Roe v. Wade.

To amplify his arguments, Newsom has dipped into the war chest that he began building while fending off an attempted recall in 2021 and during his reelection campaign last year. In the lead-up to Thursday night’s debate, for example, Newsom narrated an ad that Campaign for Democracy aired on Fox in Florida and Washington, D.C., suggesting that DeSantis would jail women and doctors who try to terminate a pregnancy in Florida after six weeks.

Over time, the rivalry has proved beneficial to both men. DeSantis’s sparring with Newsom drew media attention in the GOP primary where he has often been overshadowed by Trump. And it has helped Newsom fashion himself into one of the Democratic Party’s most visible figures, forging a profile as a skillful combatant for Democrats who is at ease on unfriendly turf. His peers — and potential future rivals in a Democratic primary — like Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker and Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro, have maintained decidedly lower profiles.

Newsom proposed the one-on-one debate with DeSantis on the platform formerly known as Twitter in September 2022, shortly after the Florida governor asserted that Newsom’s hair gel was “interfering with his brain function” during a disagreement over DeSantis’s treatment of migrants.

“I’ll bring my hair gel. You bring your hairspray,” Newsom tweeted as he goaded DeSantis to debate him: “Name the time.” (The California governor’s team was ultimately surprised when DeSantis agreed).

Newsom’s aggressive public posturing initially raised eyebrows in Democratic circles — particularly in the months before Biden announced his reelection bid when some Democratic operatives questioned Newsom’s motives.

But more recently only a few lone voices in the party have publicly needled Newsom for his ambition, most notably Sen. John Fetterman. The Pennsylvania Democrat recently argued in an Iowa speech that both Rep. Dean Phillips (D-Minn.) and Newsom are “running for president right now,” but “only one has the guts to announce it.”

The Biden campaign has publicly welcomed Newsom’s fundraising efforts on the Biden campaign’s behalf and how he has championed the president’s accomplishments, including as one of the most sought-after surrogates at this year’s Republican debate in Simi Valley, Calif.

When asked about the campaign’s objectives for Newsom’s debate with DeSantis on Thursday night, Biden campaign spokesman TJ Ducklo said the campaign is “fortunate to already have one of the most robust and active surrogate operations in the history of presidential politics” and that Newsom “is an important piece of that effort, as he forcefully and effectively makes the president’s case.”

“We look forward to him highlighting how Ron DeSantis’s extremism and failures in Florida are part of a MAGA agenda we cannot allow back in the White House,” Ducklo said.

Newsom has helped raise about $6 million for the Biden campaign this cycle both by tapping his own small-donor network online and by hosting and appearing at fundraising events, according to a spokesman. Other Democratic governors have helped the campaign raise similar amounts this cycle, according to a source familiar with the Biden fundraising effort.

As part of Newsom’s insistence that the Democratic Party must help Democrats rebuild their outreach in deep-red territory, his aides say he has also directly donated about $110,000 to Democratic Party groups in red states. And his Campaign for Democracy PAC has raised about $1 million for Democratic candidates including Rep. Colin Allred, who is running for U.S. Senate in Texas, as well as other Democrats in tough races including Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) and Gov. Andy Beshear, who recently won reelection in Kentucky.

This post appeared first on The Washington Post
Other news