California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) was re-elected on Nov. 8, more than a year after he easily fended off a recall effort. Although he's said he has "subzero interest" in being president, there are signs that point to him wanting to increase his national name recognition, possibly before announcing a run for the White House. Here's everything you need to know:
Speaking with Politico in November, Newsom said he's made those intentions clear to Team Biden. "I've told everyone in the White House, from the chief of staff to the first lady," Newsom said on election night. In terms of Biden's possible re-election, Newsom reportedly said, "I'm all in, count me in." The president has not officially announced any 2024 plans but has stated that he intends to run.
Newsom said the speculation around him is "frustrating because I have so much reverence and respect for not only the president but the vice president is an old friend."
How long has Gavin Newsom been governor of California?
The 55-year-old was first elected in November 2018 after serving on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, as mayor of San Francisco, and as California lieutenant governor. Before going into politics, Newsom was part of a group of investors that launched a company called PlumpJack Associates, which ultimately opened a winery, several restaurants, hotels, and retail stores.
Why did he face a recall?
Newsom was sworn into office in January 2019, and by February 2020, a recall petition was introduced, with the organizers accusing Newsom of failing to enforce immigration laws, increasing taxes, and lowering the quality of life for California residents. The effort stalled, only picking up steam in 2021 when critics accused him of being too strict with COVID-19 lockdown regulations.
Enough signatures were collected — 1,495,709 — to set a recall election. On Sept. 14, 2021, voters overwhelmingly rejected the recall, with 61.9 percent of ballots in favor of keeping Newsom in office through the end of his term and 38.1 percent of ballots in favor of ousting him.
What makes people think Newsom is considering running for president in 2024?
As the governor of California, which Bloomberg said is poised to overtake Germany as the world's fourth-largest economy, Newsom has a more recognizable name than many other Democratic governors. Still, to be president, he'll need an even bigger profile, especially on the East Coast, with its high concentration of voters.
During the midterms, he had taken out television and newspaper ads in Florida and Texas, calling out Republican lawmakers like Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) for passing strict abortion, voting, and educational laws. Los Angeles Times opinion columnist Anita Chabria thinks Newsom is "standing up for the values of an America under attack," and he has positioned himself "not just as a viable candidate but as a hero in a time of need, when our democracy is in peril from a bunch of fascist morons in red baseball caps who are apparently willing to do a nouveau Nazi salute with no regrets ... His chances, I think, depend on how much that fascism advances or dissipates before 2024."
Not everyone who is convinced Newsom is running for president thinks it's going to happen in 2024 — if President Biden decides to run for a second term, they believe Newsom won't put up a challenge, and it's unlikely he'll go up against Vice President Kamala Harris either. But if there is an open Democratic primary in 2028, the timing would work perfectly for Newsom, veteran Republican political consultant Sean Walsh told Cal Matters. By that point, Newsom would be finishing up his second term and able to immediately launch a campaign. "The calendar favors you," Walsh said. "So be a good guy, don't get arrogant. As long as you are the good soldier for the party, let people speculate about what you want. Let all the talk flourish."
What makes people think Newsom isn't considering running for president?
Some believe Newsom bought ads in Florida and Texas not to market himself, but because he thinks it's important to counter Republicans, while also boosting both California and Democrats. "I think Gov. Newsom is doing what he loves to do, which is be part of the national conversation," Jessica Levinson, a political analyst and professor at Loyola Law, told CBS News in July. "He also loves to talk about how California is different from other states. We've heard this from him before: 'California is a place where your rights are protected.'" Those ads also play well in his home state, where they stir up Newsom's Democratic base and get ample coverage on local news.
What else has Newsom said in the past about running for president?
In the spring, Newsom said he had "subzero interest" in running for president, and he elaborated on this during an interview in September with Politico's David Siders, who asked him to explain why. "Why?" Newsom responded. "Out of reverence for the incumbent president of the United States, Joe Biden. Out of respect for one of my oldest friends, former Californian and colleague, Kamala Harris. You just begin with those two, and you move on to, I'm focused on other things." Newsom also discussed the ads running in other states, saying that at the time of filming the messages, his feeling was, "You know what? Let's take it to these guys."
Before the November election, Newsom and his Republican opponent, California state Sen. Brian Dahle, held their sole debate in October. Dahle declared it's "obvious" that Newsom is running for president, adding, "he's spending money in other states. He's not focused on California, and Californians are suffering." Newsom responded that if was re-elected, he would serve out the full four-year term.
Just days before the election, Newsom told CBS News' Major Garrett "it's not my ambition" to run for president. "It's not the direction that I'm leaning into," he continued. "It's not the moment." He also told Garrett he wants Biden to run for re-election in 2024. "I don't think there's been two years of more effective policy-making of a modern American president," Newsom said. He praised Biden for doing this "under the circumstance, with all the headwinds, the obfuscation, and opposition. I think it's been remarkable."
Could Newsom be planning a run for a different office?
It's possible. Sonja Diaz, director of the Latino Policy and Politics Institute at the University of California Los Angeles, told The Guardian all signs point to Newsom "setting a course for higher office, after his tenure as governor." California's senior senator, Democrat Dianne Feinstein, is now 89 years old, and not expected to run for re-election in 2024. It's possible Newsom could attempt to fill that vacated seat, or seek a high-ranking position in a Democratic administration.
"You don't build a brand overnight," Bob Shrum, director of the University of Southern California's Dornsife Center for the Political Future, told Cal Matters. "You build it over time. You can't time any of this perfectly, because you can't know what the future is going to bring. So when you have an opportunity to assert a degree of national leadership, then you assert it."
Update Nov. 30: This article has been updated to reflect Newsom's discussion with Politico.