Gavin's New Media Playbook
If you’ve been watching Fox News lately, you probably have noticed a few trends: the ‘two-tier justice system,’ ‘Biden impeachment,’ 'Hunter,' among other typical talking points. But there’s something else on Fox News pretty often these days, or rather someone. No I’m not talking about Vivek Ramaswamy or Robert Kennedy Jr. I’m talking about the Democratic Governor of California, Gavin Newsom.
As far as major Democratic figures go, Newsom is really the only one consistently engaging with the Right. Last year in June, he was the most prominent Democrat to join Trump’s Truth Social Platform at a time when his peers refused to give it credibility. When he isn’t on there “on calling out MAGA lies,” you can catch him in interviews with Sean Hannity, calling out hypocrites on the right, discussing his political philosophies and their impacts on Californian legislation, or consistently voicing his support for incumbent Joe Biden, calling him a “man of decency and character.”
In a polarized time such as our own, a lot of Newsom's actions seem to contradict each other. They don’t fit into the division we’ve grown accustomed to. Very few Democrats are actively working to engage in discourse with anyone on the Right, but that is a new top priority for the California Governor.
Newsom, a historically popular Governor in California’s history, was challenged by political commentator Larry Elder in an attempted recall in 2021. However, Newsom retained his position with about the same amount of the votes by which he won it. He is the second Governor in California history to face a recall, and the first to survive one. Though it was certainly not a narrow defeat for Newsom, and most polls predicted he would persevere, he was left intent to never underestimate the power of conservative media again. He has, since that day, become increasingly vested in understanding the landscape of conservative media. An article from Semafor reports of Newsom tuning in to The Ben Shapiro Show and The Faulkner Focus on a daily basis.
On September 28th this year, Fox News posted another interview between Sean Hannity and Gavin Newsom, filmed live in the Reagan Library spin room following the second Republican debate. The two start off the interview in a light-hearted, joking manner, with Hannity even stating Newsom told him off-air that Newsom “loves doing [Hannity’s] show the most”. At first, Hannity is keenly interested in asserting that the Governor, deep down, is eager to run for President and challenge the “cognitive mess” Joe Biden. Though Newsom continued to voice his support for the incumbent, expressing admiration for Biden’s extraordinary political record. “I couldn’t be more proud,” said Newsom.
It is clear Gavin Newsom is putting in effort to justify the work he has done as Governor, and staunchly defend the leader of his party. Across every important point of contention (and perhaps a potential future agenda), Newsom asserts that the progressive solutions of his party work, and that he will continue to support them in every way. He knows exactly who’s watching, and he knows a lot of them strongly dislike those solutions. But many on the left and right dislike Joe Biden even more. Newsom’s familiarity with conservative talking points makes him much better equipped then most of his contemporaries to handle a Hannity interview, and appear to many conservatives not as a crazy radical whom they should fear, but rather a respectable, albeit misguided, figure. If the goal is to convince moderates or people on the opposite side of the spectrum to support you, the contemporary media strategy of staying within echo chambers, media bubbles, and friendly podcasts seems a very ineffective mode for doing so.
Many of Newsom’s appearances on right-wing media have incited positive reactions from the left and even a few on the right. His interviews with Sean Hannity seem to be doing the trick for many Democrats, especially at a time of declining Democratic support of Joe Biden. Despite his accomplishments, Biden is not the spokesperson he once was; he isn’t motivating or inspiring Democrats. What Newsom is doing fundamentally boils down to building credibility, on both sides. Time will tell if Newsom's strategy is working, but his second term as Governor ends in early 2027, leaving enough time to organize a substantial effort for a bid in 2028.
Stay tuned, this is only the beginning for Gavin Newsom’s new strategy. Fox News announced a 90 minute televised interview between Gavin Newsom and Ron DeSantis to take place on Sean Hannity’s show on November 30th. Assuming Biden stays healthy, Gavin Newsom isn’t trying to get your vote in 2024, but four years from now, he will be. The current work he’s doing may be in the hope that come 2028, you’ll think of him as someone who kept fighting when others gave up.