Biden jokes about Gavin Newsom ambitions and 2024 rumours in California

President smooths over 2024 tensions with a joke

John Bowden
Washington DC
Thursday 16 November 2023 17:22 GMT
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Joe Biden and Xi Jinping arrive in San Francisco ahead of meeting

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Louise Thomas

Louise Thomas

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President Joe Biden was in fence-mending mode on Wednesday as he spoke at the welcome reception for the 2023 Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in California.

The president finds himself this week in the backyard of Gavin Newsom, one of his party’s most prominent young leaders. At 80 years old, the president’s relationship with Mr Newsom has been strained in recent weeks, thanks to accusations flung by his allies of the California governor supposedly running a “shadow” campaign for the presidency. Mr Newsom has fiercely denied the claims.

On Wednesday evening there were no signs of that tension as Mr Biden warmly praised the Democratic governor onstage and even appeared to joke that his younger counterpart could end up in the White House himself some day soon.

“I want to thank him. He’s been one hell of a governor, man,” Mr Biden told a crowd which responded with a smattering of cheers.

“Matter of fact, he could be anything he wants. He could have the job I’m looking for,” the president then joked, to laughs.

Mr Newsom, 56, currently faces dipping approval ratings in his state as California battles dueling images of growing issues with homeless residents and an affordability crisis endangering many more Californians of falling into that category. He recently signed legislation raising the minimum wage for healthcare workers in the state and expanding mental healthcare services for persons believed to be a danger to themselves or others.

His efforts to build a national profile have stoked rumours of presidential ambitions; those efforts have included sparring with Republicans on cable news and in recent weeks accepting a challenge to debate Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, a mid-tier GOP presidential candidate, one-on-one. That debate is set to take place later this month, and has angered some of the president’s allies who perceive it as stepping into the presidential race uninvited.

The most direct criticism has come from Pennsylvania Senator John Fetterman, who called out the governor at a recent fundraiser for the Iowa Democratic Party.

“There are two additional Democrats running for ... president right now,” he said, according to NBC News. “One is a congressman from Minnesota, the other one is the governor of California. But only one has the guts to announce it.”

Mr Newsom has strongly denied any plans to run in 2024, and further rejected the idea that Mr Biden may step aside before the general election begins.

“We need to move past this notion that he’s not going to run,” he told NBC. “President Biden is going to run and I’m looking forward to him getting reelected.”

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