The California governor may not be a presidential candidate, at least not this year, but he is being sent by the Biden team to the Republican presidential debate in his home state next week.
What Is Gavin Newsom Doing? A Stealth Presidential Campaign?
Gov. Gavin Newsom of California is not running for president, which he’s been very clear about, having long ago backed President Biden. But that doesn’t mean he’s not getting involved in the presidential race.
The Hill reported Friday that Newsom is being sent to the Republican presidential debate next week in order to lead “response efforts.”
The debate, taking place September 27, will be held at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum in Simi Valley, Calif., which is in Newsom’s home state. Biden-Harris campaign manager Julie Chavez Rodriguez and DNC Chairman Jamie Harrison will also appear at the debate.
“The campaign response builds off the strong and effective plan from the first debate with a clear north star: pushback on Republicans’ lies and highlight their extremism at every turn. Our response will ensure we hold every Republican and their extreme positions accountable,” the Biden campaign said in a statement to The Hill.
Former President Donald Trump will not be at the debate, having already announced he will speak in Michigan that night.
Newsom’s recent visibility and actions have led to a lot of speculation that he is looking to emerge as the Democratic standard bearer for a post-Biden world, most likely by running for president in what is likely a wide-open presidential campaign in 2028.
Newsom, in recent months, has introduced a constitutional amendment of gun control measures, as well as a lawsuit against five major oil companies. Both look a lot like the sorts of things that could serve as signature proposals in a future presidential campaign.
Speaking of Newsom and debates, the governor had been in talks earlier this year for a televised debate with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, himself a presidential candidate. The two are both governors of big states who have taken rival approaches to govern and have often sniped at one another in the press.
But now, it appears, the Newsom-DeSantis debate is off. Slate, this week, looked at what happened.
“Two guys who really wanted to be president, both of them very much under 80, squaring up,” Slate’s Alexander Sammon wrote. “For those who hadn’t yet accepted that the 2024 presidential election would be a Biden-Trump redux, this looked like the very near future of American politics, two heavyweight rising stars, leaders of large states, R and D, an undercard in name only.”
Why hasn’t the debate happened? Per Slate, Newsom recently said on “Meet the Press” that the snag was over a “venue issue,” with the DeSantis side wanting a large crowd and Newsom disagreeing. But the piece also argues that both men have fallen from their peaks, around when the debate idea was first broached.
“With Trump and Biden already looking like locks for presidential renominations, DeSantis and Newsom haven’t merely been put on ice; each has spent the intervening months spoiling their reputation with odd antics, their national appeal somehow fading faster than even the sundowning octogenarians at their respective parties’ helms,” the Slate piece says. “Both have filled their second and final gubernatorial terms with strange vanity projects and ill-advised public comments, accomplishing less and less with the mandate voters in each of their states gave them not long ago.”
While DeSantis has suffered a campaign meltdown, the piece noted that Newsom has fallen behind in the California Democratic hierarchy, with both Sen. Dianne Feinstein and former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi each refusing to retire. Also, he has spent his recent time in office pursuing “confounding, reactionary, and probably unconstitutional policymaking of his own, a series of descriptors one might even call DeSantis-esque for short.”
While a Newsom-DeSantis prime-time debate seems unlikely at this point, perhaps their paths will cross in Simi Valley.
Author Expertise and Experience:
Stephen Silver is a Senior Editor for 19FortyFive. He is an award-winning journalist, essayist and film critic, who is also a contributor to the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Broad Street Review and Splice Today. The co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle, Stephen lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and two sons. Stephen has authored thousands of articles over the years that focus on politics, technology, and the economy for over a decade. Follow him on X (formerly Twitter) at @StephenSilver, and subscribe to his Substack newsletter.