Calif. Gov. Newsom visits Washington, raising his national profile even as he says he won't run in 2024

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California Governor Gavin Newsom has been adamant he won't run for president in 2024. But his visit to Washington D.C. last week s the latest in a series of national moves signaling possible ambitions outside the Golden State.

Newsom came to Washington to accept an award from the Education Commission of the States and, in his acceptance speech, called out Florida and Texas for banning books, cutting mental health spending and passing anti-LGBTQ legislation.

He also met with First Lady Jill Biden and a handful of Democratic senators and Biden officials about top issues including reproductive justice, homelessness and gun safety.

Between his Washington visit, attack ads in Florida and recent comments about the Republican party, Newsom appears to be embracing a national approach.

More:California Gov. Gavin Newsom urges Floridians to ditch state

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California Gov. Gavin Newsom delivers his annual State of the State address in Sacramento, Calif., March 8, 2022. Newsom is running for reelection in California, but his latest television ad is airing in Florida. The 30-second spot scheduled to air on Fox News starting Monday, July 4, takes shots at Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and his policies, while drawing a contrast with California.

Why was Newsom in Washington D.C.?

Newsom came to accept the Frank Newman Award for State Innovation from the Education Commission of the States. It was the only public moment of the trip, the rest with closed-door meetings.

  • Newsom and First Lady Jill Biden discussed "how California can support the Biden Administration's ambitious agenda," according to the Governor's office. In a video published on Twitter after the meeting, Newsom said they talked about "what's happening across the country that's right and what's going on in many of these red states."

  • Also in the White House, Newsom met with Chief of Staff Ron Klain about "how California can provide a model for the rest of the nation in progressive governance." On Thursday he met with Ambassador Susan Rice, a domestic policy advisor in the Biden administration.

  • Later on Wednesday he met with the Office of Management and Budget Development to talk healthcare policy and the Department of Housing and Urban Development about a request for additional resources for addressing homelessness.

  • On Thursday Newsom met with Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., to talk national gun reform, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., on abortion care and Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., on both gun reform and abortion.

  • Newsom and California Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Alex Padilla met with the Defense Department to talk about wildfire response. They're looking for increased access to advanced technology and to improve fire agency access to military aircraft.

  • He finished off his visit on Friday having lunch with longtime ally Vice President Kamala Harris. He told reporters that Harris has been a "wonderful" vice president, but noted the difficulty of "constraints in that office that are demonstratable" for most vice presidents.

Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., left, who has led in the recent bipartisan Senate talks to rein in gun violence, walks with California Gov. Gavin Newsom at the Capitol in Washington, Thursday, July 14, 2022.
Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., left, who has led in the recent bipartisan Senate talks to rein in gun violence, walks with California Gov. Gavin Newsom at the Capitol in Washington, Thursday, July 14, 2022.

Newsom called out Texas, Ohio, Florida on education policy

In his speech to the Education Commission of the States Newsom said that education is "under assault in ways I've never experienced in my lifetime," calling out banning of books, surpressing speech and "the othering of our students, teachers and parents."

He mentioned Ohio state Representative Sarah Fowler Arthur, who said schools should include the perspective of German soldiers when teaching about the Holocaust.

Newsom chided the state of Texas for cutting mental health spending by $211 million as students are still reeling from the pandemic.

But no state was singled out as much as Florida, as Newsom criticized the state's board of education for banning books on social-emotional learning and critical race theory and the so-called "Don't Say Gay" bill, which bars lessons on gender identity and sexual orientation until the third grade.

Florida has been a recent, repeated topic for the governor, pitting Newsom against Republican Governor Ron DeSantis. In a fundraising email DeSantis compared "the free state of Florida and the woke tyranny of Gavin Newsom's California."

California Republicans weren't impressed by Newsom's message. California GOP Chairwoman Jessica Millan Patterson said Newsom was in Washington to "measure the drapes in the West Wing," and criticized him for keeping schools closed through the pandemic when his own children attended private school in-person.

Newsom's national message

His speech comments were only the latest jabs against the Republican party in recent months.

He ran ads in Florida on Independence Day, saying that "freedom is under attack" in the Sunshine State. He said in his State of the State speech in March that America is plagued by a "national anger machine" of Republicans. He joined the heavily-Republican social media website TruthSocial, calling out Florida's COVID-19 response and saying that "extremist republicans (sic) across the nation are trying to eliminate fundamental American freedoms."

Newsom has repeatedly denied he'll run for the presidency in 2024. When asked on Wednesday if President Joe Biden should run for re-election in 2024, Newsom unequivocally said yes and offered his support. His office said Newsom has said he won't be running repeatedly, including to reporters while in D.C.

Even though Newsom says he won't run, polls indicate he could have the support to beat former Pres. Donald Trump or DeSantis. A Yahoo/News/YouGov poll conducted at the end of June had Newsom beating Trump 40% to 39% and DeSantis 39% to 36%. The same poll showed Biden leading Trump 42% to 40% and DeSantis 41% to 37%.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: California Gov. Gavin Newsom calls out DeSantis, Abbot on LGBTQ issues