In Focus

Newsom vs. DeSantis: a taste of the 2024 election?

Rising Democrat star versus GOP’s favourite governor could be ‘a matchup for the ages’

Forget Donald Trump and Joe Biden. The battle Americans are really interested in today is Newsom vs. DeSantis, said Jeremy B. White and Gary Fineout on Politico. In one corner is the “telegenic” Democratic governor of California, Gavin Newsom; in the other, Florida’s Republican governor Ron DeSantis, a punchy populist often “heralded as a more disciplined Trump”.

The two men have been sparring for months, but Newsom recently upped the ante by paying for an advertisement on DeSantis’s home turf. “Freedom is under attack in your state,” Newsom declares in the ad, citing moves by Florida’s Republican leaders to ban books, limit classroom discussion of controversial topics, and roll back access to abortions. “I urge all of you [living in Florida] to join the fight, or join us in California.”

DeSantis’s office hit back at Newsom, calling the ad a “desperate attempt to win back the California refugees who fled the hellhole he created in his state”.

This is a “taste of what the 2024 presidential race might look like”, said Jeff Charles in Newsweek. It could be “a matchup for the ages”: the rising Democrat star versus the GOP’s favourite governor. On paper, Newsom is weaker. His approval ratings at home are lower than DeSantis’s, and Florida is faring better than California today in economic and quality-of-life terms.

As a campaigner, though, Newsom is making his mark, said Dean Obeidallah on CNN. Liberal voters have long complained that their leaders aren’t “fighters”. You can’t say that of Newsom. He’s taking the battle to the GOP by calling out its extremism. It’s a “playbook all Democrats should embrace”.

Newsom is getting noticed, said Mark Z. Barabak in the Los Angeles Times, but that doesn’t mean he’s running for president in 2024. He’s not going to risk “pariah status” by trying to oust Joe Biden. No challenger in recent history has wrested the nomination away from a president seeking re-election. And if Biden doesn’t stand again, Newsom would be loath to take on Kamala Harris. The two worked together in San Francisco and share the same base. Challenging the first female, first Asian-American and first black vice president wouldn’t win him any friends.

Newsom is making the most of the platform his office provides, just as his predecessor Arnold Schwarzenegger did. But the 54-year-old knows there will be many “better opportunities to run for president”.

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