by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Gov. Gavin Newsom D-CA) is up to something. The question is, what?
Newsom has long been rumored to be gearing up for a presidential run, with 2028 the supposed target. But a series of recent moves has raised speculation he could be setting up to try next year, or at least getting in position in case of emergency.
“He’s doing what any able and ambitious politician is doing,” Democratic strategist Brad Bannon said. “He’s putting himself in position to run for president if Biden doesn’t. I think he wants to be president very much. I don’t think he would run against Biden.”
Newsom, 55, has been building a national profile for years. He’s now in his second term as governor of California, the nation’s largest state, and has campaigned and bought ad space in other states, signaling larger intentions.
He’s campaigning for President Joe Biden and the Democratic Party this week. The second Republican presidential debate will occur at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California, so Newsom is being unleashed to provide counterprogramming and protect his home turf.
Some of Newsom’s other moves seem less straightforward.
He’s now scheduled to debate Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL), an actual 2024 candidate, on Nov. 30 in Georgia. The debate will air on Fox News with Sean Hannity as moderator, making it something of a road game for Newsom but nonetheless a way for him to showcase his skill set nationally.
The California governor further raised eyebrows over the weekend by vetoing a bill that would require judges to weigh whether parents affirm a child’s gender identity in custody battles. A separate veto stopped a bill that would have prevented California state prisons from cooperating with federal immigration authorities. Both moves were seen as tacks toward the center as Newsom looks beyond his liberal home state.