On July 3, California Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, aired an ad in Florida attacking Gov. Ron DeSantis, sparking speculation as to whether Newsom anticipates a 2024 presidential showdown against the GOP governor gaining control in the party.
If you watched the ad, you may have asked yourself why a politician like Newsom would reach out to non-voters (as of now) who are over two thousand miles away. No one knows for sure what this move will bring to the political arena.
“Freedom, it’s under attack in your state,” Newsom says in the ad.
He criticized a multitude of conservative stances held by DeSantis and the Florida Legislature. He even called for Floridians to join him in California. Shortly after, his campaign released a lengthy statement where he called for a colossal task: taking the word “freedom” from DeSantis and Republicans.
This comes after a period of immense travel and the relocation of countless citizens around the country to the free state of Florida. Florida has even been an escape for a myriad of Democrats like Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-New York, Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-California, and Gov. Phil Murphy, D-New Jersey, just to name a few.
DeSantis himself responded to the ad in a press conference about lowering drug prices.
“I was born and raised in this state and, until the last few years, I rarely if ever saw a California license plate in the state of Florida. You now see a lot of them. I can tell you, if you go to California you ain’t seeing very many Florida license plates,” he said.
He continued, “When families are uprooting from the Pacific Coast to go almost 3,000 miles in search of a better life, that’s telling you something. Yes, we’ve created a citadel of freedom here that has attracted people and we’re proud of it. But let’s just be clear: California is driving people away with their terrible governance.”
With four months left until the 2022 Florida gubernatorial election, the DeSantis campaign has amassed a nine-figure war chest. The Democratic primary will determine whether DeSantis’ opponent will be Rep. Charlie Crist of St. Petersburg, or Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried.
Although it may seem like a good strategy for Newsom to campaign against DeSantis in anticipation of 2024, it comes at the wrong time.
DeSantis continues to rise in popularity while Newsom aligns himself with President Joe Biden, who has the worst approval rating of any president at this point in their tenure since World World II. While Biden continues to have lapses, play the blame game, and be energy dependent, DeSantis’ governing has led to a free and prosperous Florida evident in a historic $21.8 billion budget surplus. The only logical result of this trend is a DeSantis victory over Newsom.
The Newsom battle is just an early, but seemingly possible, 2024 prediction.
Dr. Stephen C. Craig, UF political science professor, sees the ad in a similar light and acknowledges that this way-too-early general election buzz is unlike anything seen before in American politics.
“DeSantis is pretty clearly eyeing the presidency, and maybe Newsom as well — though first he would have to get the Democratic nomination, and attacking someone from the other side doesn’t seem likely to help much in that regard,” Craig said. “At this incredibly early stage of the race, my main thought is that the reasoning behind the ad may simply be to build Newsom’s name recognition in a state where most voters, including Democrats, don’t know much about him.”
“The overall impact of campaign ads is often less than consultants want to believe, but there are exceptions. And maybe this will prove to be one of those exceptions,” Craig added. “It’s certainly attracted media attention, and my guess is that this is exactly what the Newsom camp had in mind.”
President Joe Biden has said he intends to run again in 2024. With a field of possible younger candidates, it seems like Biden, who will be 82 years old at the time, could change his mind.
There are still so many question marks as to what comes after the midterms. Will President Donald Trump run for a third time, and if so, can DeSantis still win the GOP nomination? Will Biden indeed run again?
This comes amid other 2024 speculation, like the 2021 meeting between Nikki Haley, the former South Carolina governor and Trump-era United Nations ambassador, and rising star Mayor Francis Suarez, R-Miami.
Other potential 2024 presidential candidates include Vice President Kamala Harris and U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg on the Democratic side, with Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem and former Vice President Mike Pence as prominent names on the Republican side.
Who will prevail? Only time will tell…
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Featured image: Governor Gavin Newsom at the California Democratic Party State Convention in 2019. Unmodified photo by Gage Skidmore used under a Creative Commons license (https://bit.ly/3yScZdu)