July 13, 2022

DeSantis vs. Newsom

The war between the governors — and red states and blues states — heats up.

We’re still four months away from the midterm elections, but in an effort to distract the populace from the foibles and errant policies of the current president and his party, the media continues to try to set up the horserace for 2024. We’re beginning to get a hunch that Donald Trump will come out of retirement to run again, but we do know that his projected heir apparent, Ron DeSantis, is running … for reelection as Florida governor this fall.

On the other hand, while Joe Biden has hinted he will try for a second term (in a transparent bid to stave off lame-duck status), it’s obvious that his approval rating, economic record, and overall health make him the most vulnerable incumbent since Jimmy Carter. The Democrats don’t have much of an improvement with Vice President Kamala Harris, either, so there’s a segment of the party pining for a candidate not affiliated with this disaster of an administration.

Enter California Governor Gavin Newsom, who is expected to roll to his own reelection this fall. And while there’s already plenty of mud out there to be slung against Trump, DeSantis has the advantage of being a popular governor of a key electoral state who’s made conservatives cheer for standing up for parental rights and leading his state through the pandemic and beyond without destroying its economy. With the pandemic-induced transformation to a remote working economy, people could work from home and live where they wanted to, and Florida was a leading beneficiary of that surge while California was a loser, hemorrhaging jobs and watching major companies leave the state.

All that didn’t matter to Newsom, who fired his initial 2024 salvo at DeSantis with an ad buy in Florida. In the ad, Newsom stated: “Freedom is under attack by Republican leaders in states like Florida. Banning books. Restricting speech. Making it harder to vote. Criminalizing women and doctors. It’s time to stand up. Don’t let them take your freedom.” Regardless of his record or perceived lack of wisdom in calling out DeSantis, taking the fight to the other side is nothing new for Newsom, who last month announced he had joined Donald Trump’s Truth Social website, claiming: “[I’m] going to be on there calling out Republican lies. This could get… interesting.”

It would be easy to laugh at the ad’s concept, or to simply remind people that Newsom is the king of the double standard. He recently took a family vacation to Montana, a state otherwise off-limits for California state employees. (Ironically, according to the editorial writers of the New York Post, Florida is another state Newsom isn’t supposed to visit.) But there are reasons to take Newsom seriously.

This assessment, from political analyst Michael Brendan Dougherty, opens with a litany of negatives: “Yes, he has Pat Riley’s hair. Yes, he seems not to care about the propriety of doing a photo-op at somebody’s burning residence. Yes, enough signatures were collected to begin a recall campaign against him last year. Yes, the middle class is fleeing California. Yes, the state’s cities are becoming a Dickensian tableau of the ultra-rich and the poor.” But Dougherty argues Newsom has a lot of assets that would appeal to Democrats who are fed up with Biden and want a brash, Trump-like fighter for their side, noting that while Latinos nationwide are trending toward the GOP, California Latinos are increasingly behind Newsom. Meanwhile, Uncle Sam and cash from Silicon Valley and Hollywood are still propping up his state’s economy to the extent that he can hand out $1,050 checks for “inflation relief” just in time for the election.

“He’s brazen, he’s ambitious, and he will have access to unbelievable amounts of money if and when he runs nationally,” concludes Dougherty. While our readers know his issues better than most, not everyone is as well-informed — so ignore Gavin Newsom’s national ambitions at your peril.

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