They are both governors, rising stars and future presidential candidates, building micro-ideological models in their sunny capitals.
In ever-blue California, Newsom, the son of a state appellate judge, has rebooted from his early days as a flashy progressive hero around quieter legislative pushes. Meanwhile, in blushing Florida, there’s DeSantis, the son of a Nielsen box salesman, who publicly cares less about his two Ivy League degrees and more about anti-elitist, reactionary politics. that consumed the GOP.
Newsom is now going on the air against DeSantis in Florida – with what he says isn’t the first ad from the presidential race of 2024, or even 2028 – in a bid to try to get Democrats to claw back a sense of collective identity that could enable them to beat Trumpism in the long run.
“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, as “America the Beautiful” pricks his fingers in background. “Freedom is under attack in your state.”
“I urge you all to live in Florida and join the fight – or join us in California, where we still believe in freedom: freedom of speech, freedom to choose, freedom to hate, and freedom to love,” he said. Newsom. the footage moves from an aerial shot of the Santa Monica Pier to a rainbow flag waving in the hands of two women arms around each other. “Don’t let them take your freedom.”
The announcement is being paid for by Newsom’s re-election campaign, though it’s clearly not about racking up potential absentee voters who retreated to the Sunshine State for what should be an easy win for the governor of California 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 of them. I don’t like people being told they are not worthy. I don’t like people be used as political pawns. It’s not just about him, but he’s the star child.”
“We are as different,” Newsom said of the governors and their states, “as daylight and darkness.”
During a 20-minute phone interview, Newsom called DeSantis a bully, a con man, an overbearing boss, a fake conservative, a traitor to the Ronald Reagan legacy and, on multiple occasions, “DeSantos.” .
“Everyone has portions of the playbook,” Newsom said, comparing DeSantis to other Republicans. “He writes it.”
DeSantis declined an interview request, but those around him say he’s happy to have this fight.
“Gavin Newsom might as well set a pile of cash on fire,” DeSantis campaign spokesman Dave Abrams said. “Pass the popcorn for his desperate attempt to win back Californian refugees who fled the hell he created in his state to come to Florida.”
The enmity between the two governors has been building for months. DeSantis said California was letting a “coercive biomedical apparatus” guide its heavy-handed approach to Covid-19 shutdown, and he called San Francisco – a city Newsom once ruled – a “dumpster fire”. Newsom said DeSantis’ approach to the pandemic would have killed an additional 40,000 Californians and that he “is not looking to this particular governor for inspiration.”
DeSantis on the rise
DeSantis’ popularity among Republicans skyrocketed during the pandemic, when he stood up to medical experts and pushed Florida back to normality months before the rest of the country. DeSantis welcomed comparisons between Florida’s laissez-faire approach and California, where leaders have implemented mask mandates and lockdowns dictated by public health metrics such as case rates.
The big differences in approach have become fodder for the two governors.
During a recent meeting with conservative political commentator Dave Rubin, DeSantis recalled a fundraising trip to California in June 2021 (he received more donations from Golden State residents than from any other state outside of Florida , and most of them $100 or less). He had made a point of telling staff that he would not adhere to any Covid-19 restrictions while in the state and recalled an incident which he said showed how resonant he was there.
“These two masked guys are running towards me,” DeSantis said. “I’m like, ‘Oh, my God. Here we 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 goes beyond a nationwide shoutout match and into a real campaign, Florida Republicans think they have the ultimate winning argument: Florida is a growing state and California’s population is declining, although there is a long way to go. before the two get closer; Florida has over 21 million people and California about 40 million.
“We have a product that works in Florida,” said Christian Ziegler, vice president of the Florida GOP. “The number one way to measure the success of states is the economy, job performance, and people moving to or from states. And the state of Florida is winning that battle. They’re losing people. people are fleeing California. And a heck of a lot of them are coming to Florida.”
For the California governor, it goes deeper than a personal grudge match or political angling as he pushes laws and lawsuits that stray from the right-wing streak of recent Supreme Court rulings. of the United States and further embrace the “Republic of California” on the state flag.
“Hell of stuff. Not to mention Pride Month,” Newsom wrote. “Hey corporate America – where are your values? Stand up to these hateful states and come to California.”
“My expression is an expression of frustration, I’ve been watching now for many years, predating in many ways the current climate and the current administration,” Newsom said in the interview. “The success of the right to set the terms of the debate, the success of the right to dominate the narrative…they win in a way that concerns me.”
The announcement, he promised, will be the start of much more to come.
“Things have changed, the rules of engagement have to change,” Newsom said. “You have to take the fight to them.”