Gavin Newsom goes on air against Ron DeSantis as political rivalry grows amid 2024 gossip
They are both governors, rising stars and speculated soon-to-be presidential candidates building micro-ideological models in their sunny capitals.
In forever blue California, Newsom, the son of a state appellate judge, has rebooted from his early days as a flashy progressive hero around quieter law enforcement. Meanwhile, in reddish Florida, there’s DeSantis, the son of a Nielsen box salesman, who publicly clings less to his two Ivy League degrees and more to the anti-elitist, reactionary politics that have consumed the GOP.
Newsom is now going on air against DeSantis in Florida — with what he says isn’t the first ad of the 2024 presidential race, or even 2028 — with the goal of getting Democrats to reclaim a sense of collective identity that could enable them to beat Trumpism in the long term.
“It’s Independence Day — so let’s talk about what’s going on in America,” Newsom says in the ad, while standing tieless in the California sun while “America the Beautiful” fingerpicks in the background. “Liberty is under attack in your state.”
“I urge all of you who live in Florida to join the fight — or join us in California, where we still believe in freedom: freedom of speech, freedom of choice, freedom from hate and freedom to love,” says Newsom The images range from an aerial view of the Santa Monica Pier to a rainbow flag waving in the hands of two women with their arms around each other. “Don’t let them take your freedom.”
The ad is paid for by Newsom’s re-election campaign, although the intent here is clearly not to rally potential absentee voters who retreated to the Sunshine State to easily win California’s governor in November.
“He’s running for president,” Newsom told CNN last week. “I care about people. I don’t like it when people are treated as less than them. I don’t like it when people are told they aren’t worth it. I don’t like it when people are used as political pawns. This isn’t just about him, but he’s the poster child of it.”
“We are as different,” Newsom said of governors and their states, “as daylight and darkness.”
Over the course of a 20-minute phone interview, Newsom called DeSantis a bully, a con artist, an authoritarian, a false conservative, a traitor to Ronald Reagan’s legacy, and “DeSantos” several times.
“Everyone has pieces of the playbook,” Newsom said, comparing DeSantis to other Republicans. “He writes it.”
DeSantis declined a request for an interview, but those around him say he’s glad to have this fight.
“Gavin Newsom might as well set fire to a bunch of cash,” said DeSantis campaign spokesman Dave Abrams. “Hand over the popcorn for his desperate attempt to win back the California refugees who fled the hell hole he created in his state to get to Florida.”
The animosity between the two governors has been building for months. DeSantis said California is allowing a “biomedical coercion apparatus” to guide its closure-heavy Covid-19 approach, and he called San Francisco — a city Newsom once ran — a “dumpster fire.” Newsom has said that DeSantis’ approach to the pandemic killed another 40,000 Californians and that he’s “not looking for inspiration from this particular governor.”
DeSantis on the rise
DeSantis’ popularity among Republicans skyrocketed during the pandemic as he defied medical experts and pushed Florida toward normality months ahead of the rest of the country. DeSantis welcomed comparisons between Florida’s laissez-faire approach and California, where leaders instituted mask mandates and lockdowns dictated by public health metrics like case counts.
The stark differences in approach became fodder for both governors.
In a recent gathering with conservative political commentator Dave Rubin, DeSantis recalled a fundraising trip to California in June 2021 (he has received more donations from residents of the Golden State than any other state except Florida, and most of them were $100 or less). . . He had made it a point to tell staff he would not be complying with Covid-19 restrictions in the state and recalled one incident which he said showed how resonated he was there.
“These two guys in masks come running to me,” DeSantis said. “I’m like, ‘Oh God. Let’s go.’ A guy stands right in front of me, pulls his mask down, looks me straight in the eye and says, ‘I wish you were our governor.’”
If DeSantis vs. Newsom ever moves beyond a nationwide clamor and into a real campaign, Florida Republicans believe they have the ultimate winning argument: Florida is a growing state and California’s population is declining, though there’s still a long way to go before the two approach; Florida has a population of more than 21 million and California about 40 million.
“We have a working product in Florida,” said Christian Ziegler, vice chairman of the Florida GOP. “The number one way you can measure state success is by economics, job output, and the people moving into and out of states. And the state of Florida is winning this fight. you lose people People are fleeing California, many of them coming to Florida.”
Newsom strikes back
For the California governor, this goes deeper than personal grudges or political fishing as he pushes legislation and lawsuits that veer away from the right-wing trend of recent US Supreme Court decisions and continue to include the “California Republic” on the state flag.
“Hell what. Not to mention Pride Month,” Newsom wrote. “Hey, Corporate America – where are your values? Oppose these hateful states and come to California.”
“My expression is frustrated, I’ve been watching this for many years now, in many ways predating the current climate and government,” Newsom said in the interview. “The success of the right to define the terms of debate, the success of the right to dominate the narrative…they win in ways that I find alarming.”
The ad, he promised, will be the start of much more to come.
“Things have changed, the rules of engagement have to change,” Newsom said. “You must take the fight to them.”