I’ve never seen a governor run a reelection ad in a state not his own.
And since DeSantis is sitting on a mountain of campaign money that towers over even Newsom’s, I’m guessing we’ll see it happen again in California before too long.
Having now watched this ad, I feel vindicated in what I wrote about it a few days ago. It is indeed a case of Newsom waging culture war on DeSantis’s home turf, the “free state of Florida,” by claiming the mantle of freedom for the progressive policy agenda. And its intended audience is very much not DeSantis or Republicans or even Floridians. Its intended audience is Democratic voters nationwide who feel demoralized by a leadership vacuum that’s metastasized into a crisis.
Newsom is making his pitch to those voters in this spot. “I’m a proud, unapologetic liberal. Not only will I not back down, I’ll take the fight to the right’s new culture-war golden boy in his own state.”
I don’t think he can win a national election. But a Democratic presidential primary? I wouldn’t count him out.
Whatever else one might say about Newsom, he’s a polished messenger. His prime competition for the 2024 nomination if Biden doesn’t run is … not:
this can’t be real 😭 pic.twitter.com/9mYOLlvXDe
— Julianne Neely (@juleneely) July 1, 2022
“She seems completely useless. No one involved in this administration should be in the running,” said one Democratic donor to the New York Post about the prospect of Harris 2024. A Dem staffer on the Hill told the paper that she’s a bad administrator too, which explains the heavy turnover among her staff. Quote: “I just don’t think people are seeing her as a serous contender. If she weren’t the vice president she wouldn’t even [be] ON the list.”
The current guy’s not much of a messenger either:
My message to the companies running gas stations and setting prices at the pump is simple: this is a time of war and global peril.
Bring down the price you are charging at the pump to reflect the cost you’re paying for the product. And do it now.
— President Biden (@POTUS) July 2, 2022
Asking oil companies to sell their product at cost is “either straight ahead misdirection or [reflects] a deep misunderstanding of basic market dynamics,” Jeff Bezos wrote in response. It’s brazenly demagogic, designed to scapegoat corporate America by suggesting that high prices are the handiwork of a cabal that could restore the status quo at a moment’s notice if not for their boundless greed. Biden knows who the public blames for inflation and is now so desperate to deflect blame from himself that he’s willing to mislead about its causes.
You would think a guy who’s already perceived as being not in command and powerless to affect events would be more careful about issuing stern orders that are destined to be ignored, but no. Says Jim Geraghty, “If Biden’s message always seems to be some variation of, ‘I’d like to help, but other forces won’t cooperate, so there’s just not much I can do,’ many voters are likely to respond, ‘if you can’t do anything to help with my problems… then what do we need you for?’”
Newsom’s ad isn’t about inflation but it is very much about Democrats’ sense of powerlessness right now. One way to regain a sense of power is to go on offense. “The success of the right to define the terms of the debate, the success of the right to dominate the narrative … they’re winning in ways that are alarming to me,” Newsom told CNN when asked what inspired the ad.
No one on the right better demonstrates the success of going on offense in cultural disputes than DeSantis, which made him a natural target for Newsom’s pushback. Newsom clearly doesn’t like him and isn’t shy about saying so:
“[DeSantis is] 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’re not worthy. I don’t like people being used as political pawns. This is not just about him, but he is the poster child of it.”
“We’re as different,” Newsom said of both the governors and their states, “as daylight and darkness.”
Over the course of a 20-minute phone interview, Newsom called DeSantis a bully, a fraud, an authoritarian, a fake conservative, a betrayer of Ronald Reagan’s legacy and, several times, “DeSantos.”
DeSantis versus Newsom is the only plausible option America has for a 2024 election that’s energetic and entertaining rather than dispiriting and frightening. Here’s hoping!
Exit question: What will DeSantis’s counterattack ad in California look like? School closures and taxes and crime, oh my.