Gavin Newsom takes to the skies against Ron DeSantis as political rivalry grows in 2024 chatter


Gavin Newsom and Ron DeSantis are avatars not only for the different futures of their parties, but also for the separate realities in which blue and red Americans live – two people with opposing points of view who look at the exact same facts and come to vastly different conclusions.

They are both governors, rising stars and speculated presidential candidates who build micro-ideological models in their sunny capitals.

In ever-blue California, Newsom, the son of an appellate judge, has been rebooted from the get-go as a flashy progressive hero around quieter legislative push. Meanwhile, in Florida’s flushing red, there’s DeSantis, the son of a Nielsen box salesman, who publicly cares less about his two Ivy League degrees than the anti-elitist, reactionary politics that have consumed the GOP.

Newsom is now taking to the skies against DeSantis in Florida — in what he says is not the first ad of the 2024, or even the 2028, presidential race — with the aim of getting Democrats to reclaim a sense of collective identity that would may enable them to defeat Trumpism in the long run.

At $105,000 on Fox News, Newsom’s new ad, first delivered to CNN and airing July 4, is a mashup of a classic campaign spot, corporate investment pitch, and one of those California tourism commercials full of celebrities saying how much better it is. there, shrouded in the existential terror that plagues progressives today.

“It’s Independence Day — so let’s talk about what’s going on in America,” Newsom says in the ad, standing in the California sun, tieless, with “America the Beautiful” fingering the background. “Liberty is under attack in your state.”

Those last words flash across the screen in red, followed by a photo of DeSantis shaking hands with former President Donald Trump, then another from the Florida governor as Newsom goes through Florida’s laws banning books and voting, speech, and access. limit to abortion.

“I urge anyone living in Florida to join the fight — or join us in California, where we still believe in freedom: freedom of speech, freedom to choose, freedom from hatred, and the freedom to love,” Newsom says as the images range from an aerial shot of the Santa Monica Pier to a rainbow flag waving in the hands of two women with arms around each other. “Don’t let them take your freedom.”

The ad is funded by Newsom’s reelection campaign, although this is clearly not about rallying potential absentee voters who have retreated to the Sunshine State for what is expected to be an easy win for California’s governor in November.

“He’s running for president,” Newsom told CNN last week. “I care about people. I don’t like people being treated as less. I don’t like people being told they aren’t worth it. I don’t like people being used as political pawns. This is not just about him, but he is the poster child for it.”

“We are as different,” Newsom said of both the governors and their states, “as daylight and darkness.”

During a 20-minute telephone interview, Newsom called DeSantis a bully, a con artist, an authoritarian, a fake conservative, a traitor to Ronald Reagan’s legacy and, multiple times, “DeSantos.”

“Everybody has parts of the script,” Newsom said, comparing DeSantis to other Republicans. “He writes it.”

DeSantis has turned down a request for an interview, but those around him say he’s happy about this fight.

“Gavin Newsom might as well set fire to a pile of cash,” said DeSantis campaign spokesman Dave Abrams. “Pass the popcorn for his desperate attempt to win back the California refugees who fled the hellhole he created in his state to get to Florida.”

The enmity between the two governors has been growing for months. DeSantis has said California let a “coercive biomedical device” lead the shutdown-heavy Covid-19 approach, calling San Francisco — a city Newsom once ran — a “garbage can fire.” Newsom has said DeSantis’ handling of the pandemic would have killed an additional 40,000 Californians and that he is “not looking for inspiration from that particular governor.”

It’s also a matter of style. When Newsom was caught going maskless to a birthday party at an upscale Napa Valley restaurant in November 2020, he sheepishly apologized. When DeSantis was spotted without a mask during the Super Bowl months later in February 2021, he sniped, “How the hell can I have a beer with a mask on?” His campaign put the quote on a koozie and sold it online.

DeSantis’ popularity among Republicans skyrocketed during the pandemic, as he balked at medical experts and pushed Florida back to normality months ahead of the rest of the country. DeSantis welcomed comparisons between Florida and California’s laissez-faire approach, where leaders implemented mask mandates and lockdowns dictated by public health stats such as the number of cases.

Look no further than how each state handled its House of Mouse. Disney World, outside Orlando, reopened in July 2020, just as Florida became the epicenter of the country’s deadly Covid-19 summer. Disneyland, in Anaheim, California, cautiously welcomed visitors around 10 months later in April 2021.

Pollster says Republicans distance themselves from Trump after poll in key state

The major differences in approach became fodder for both governors.

In a recent conversation 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, most of them $100 or less). ). He had made it a point to tell staff he would not abide by Covid-19 restrictions in the state and recalled an incident he said showed how much he resonated there.

“These two men in masks are running towards me,” DeSantis said. “I’m like, ‘Oh, God. Here we go.’ A man stands right in front of me, takes off his mask, looks me straight in the eye and says, ‘I wish you were our governor.’”

If DeSantis vs. Newsom ever moves beyond a cross-country yelling contest 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 one more long way to go before the two approach each other; Florida has more than 21 million inhabitants and California has about 40 million.

“We have a working product in Florida,” said Christian Ziegler, vice president of the Florida GOP. “The No. 1 way to measure the success of states is economy, job performance and people moving into or out of states. And the state of Florida is winning that battle. They lose people. People are fleeing California. And a lot of them come to Florida.”

But unlike Texas leaders, who enjoy every time a Silicon Valley company opens a store in the Lone Star State, DeSantis has recently urged California CEOs to stay out of Florida for fear that a progressive wave of tech workers would wipe out the GOP shrine he is building. When other Republican leaders in Florida publicly courted Elon Musk to move Twitter to the Sunshine State, DeSantis pushed back, saying, “They’re enjoying our lower taxes, but you know, what are they really offering?”

For the governor of California, this goes deeper than a personal grudge match, or political fishing as he pushes legislation and lawsuits that turn away from the right-wing trend of recent US Supreme Court decisions and further embrace the “Republic of California” on the state flag.

DeSantis isn’t Newsom’s only GOP target. The California governor joined Trump’s social media site purely to troll the former president and his supporters. He knocked Texas Gov. Greg Abbott repeatedly and… tweeted a comment targeted Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, who said last month he would be comfortable defending the defunct anti-sodomy law if the U.S. Supreme Court reversed its 2003 decision to repeal the statute.

“A hell. Not to mention pride month,” Newsom wrote. “Hey, corporate America – where are your values? Stand up to these hateful states and come to California.”

Newsom insists he is not criticizing President Joe Biden and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi when he says he is trying to encourage his party to become angrier and more active. He called the hearings held by the select House committee investigating the January 6, 2021 Capitol attack a “masterclass,” but said Democrats need to look beyond Trump and how Trumpism is evolving. After spending much of the pandemic watching and reading right-wing media, Newsom said he was increasingly alarmed at how much is taking root.

“My expression is one of frustration. I have been looking for many years now, in many ways older than the current climate and government,” Newsom said in the interview. “The success of the right to define the terms of the debate, the success of the right to dominate the narrative … they win in ways that are alarming to me.”

The ad, he promised, will be the start of much more.

“Things have changed, the rules of engagement have to change,” Newsom said. “You have to fight them.”

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