Biden, DeSantis make dueling trips to California in 2024 bids
By The Citizen on June 20, 2023
President Biden and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) are making dueling trips to California this week, underscoring the importance of the state politically and financially as they prepare for 2024.
DeSantis, who will be in the Golden State through Tuesday, attended a private fundraiser in Sacramento, while Biden is in San Francisco through Wednesday for fundraisers and events on climate change and artificial intelligence (AI).
The split-screen of Biden and one of the top GOP presidential contenders also comes as California is set to play a key role in the battle for the House next year.
“The longtime call among Republicans is that if you let Democrats keep winning at the national level, then the rest of the nation is going to look like California,” said Ford O’Connell, a Florida-based Republican strategist. “The Democrats want to turn the nation into California, and the Republicans want to turn the nation into Florida.”
And DeSantis has been making a point to contrast the two states. On Monday, the Florida governor’s campaign rolled out a video titled “California deteriorates while Florida thrives.”
DeSantis has also been engaged in a war of words with California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) since Florida confirmed it flew three dozen migrants from the Texas border to Sacramento earlier this month. Newsom said last week he would debate DeSantis, and DeSantis fired back saying to Newsom to “stop pussyfooting around” on whether he is going to run for president in 2024.
“California Republicans support Ron DeSantis because while their state has been crushed by Gavin Newsom’s liberal policies, Florida has become a beacon of freedom,” said Jess Szymanski, deputy communications at the pro-DeSantis super PAC Never Back Down.
Florida Democrats, on the other hand, have referred to DeSantis’s trip as hypocritical.
“He clearly has a beef with California but doesn’t seem to have a problem traveling to California to suck campaign dollars out of the state as he tries to set it up as the anti-Florida,” said Fernand Amandi, a Florida-based Democratic strategist.
Fresh off the DeSantis-Newsom feud over migrants, the California governor joined Biden on his visit to Palo Alto on Monday to tout progress on climate and announce new funding to boost climate resilience.
The president and governor showed solidarity, walking along the San Francisco Bay with an environmental student to learn about nature preservation efforts.
DeSantis’s visit to California could set his campaign up with a prime opportunity to contrast him with Biden while they’re in the same state.
“I think that DeSantis presents better with voters when he’s able to contrast himself against Biden and Democrat policies,” O’Connell said. “He wants to be the person who faces Biden in the general election.”
Biden, after speaking at the event in Palo Alto, smiled and chuckled when asked about DeSantis being in Sacramento, which the reporter pointed out is “the same place he sent migrants.”
“It’s hard to comment on things like that,” he said, with Newsom looking on.
The Florida governor’s visit to California, meanwhile, did not include any public appearances, and he is not expected to make any public appearances Tuesday either.
Biden on Tuesday in San Francisco convened experts and researchers in the AI space to talk about threats from the emerging technology.
The president’s trip also included a cash grab ahead of his first 2024 campaign finance report, which drops in July. The report will be the first time Biden will showcase just where he’s garnering support for his reelection bid to the White House.
Biden showed off Democrats’ connections with Big Tech donors at a reception hosted by LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman and Microsoft’s Kevin Scott in Scott’s Los Gatos home, and he schmoozed with guests at the Atherton home of venture capitalist Steve Westly.
While the president was in some of the United States’s most expensive zip codes, DeSantis made fundraising stops on Monday in Sacramento and the Bay Area. On Tuesday, the governor is slated to attend fundraisers in San Diego, Orange County, and Los Angeles, according to the Associated Press.
“While Democrats may rule the roost in California, California has largely been a big source of Republican fundraising money,” O’Connell said.
According to a University of California-Berkeley Institute of Government Studies (IGS) poll released last month, Trump leads DeSantis 44 percent to 26 percent among likely California Republican primary voters. However, a recent straw poll from the Orange County Republicans showed DeSantis leading Trump 46 percent to 31 percent.
“There’s political rhetoric and political reality and political reality means you have to go and campaign in all 50 states,” Amandi said. “There is some benefit to going everywhere because all states bring benefits to the table including hated California from certainly DeSantis’s perspective.”