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Florida v. California: The fight for 2024

Gavin Newsom wants to bring the California model nationwide. The Golden State governor is likely preparing a bid for the White House in 2024 if President Biden doesn’t run. Assuming Biden and Donald Trump choose not to run (or are beaten in primaries), the result likely will be a battle between Newsom and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. The election would present voters with a choice: Will the blueprint for the nation be that of California or Florida?

The Democrats’ bench of potential candidates for 2024 is remarkably shallow. Vice President Kamala Harris is highly unpopular and was a dud in the 2020 primaries. Sen. Elizabeth Warren couldn’t even carry her home state of Massachusetts in that year’s primaries. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg would have great trouble bringing together the traditional Democratic coalition and repairing his image wounded by taking extended paternity leave while the nation underwent a severe supply chain crisis. Perhaps the left wing of the party will wheel out 81-year-old Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), but if 2016 and 2020 are any indication, his odds of getting through the primaries are slim. 

Enter the California governor. Newsom’s tenure has produced one disaster after another, and yet the former San Francisco mayor is right about one thing: His politics and track record in the Golden State are the best representation of the future of the Democratic Party. 

On the other side of the aisle, Florida’s DeSantis has represented the standard-bearer on conservative policies since he became the Sunshine State’s governor in 2019. He is also unique in that he can unite all of the factions within the Republican Party. DeSantis might not have to worry about whether Trump will run again — he already shows significant momentum over the former president in current polling.

The recent track records of California and Florida under Newsom and DeSantis are all that the nation will need to make a decision if the two run for president against one another in 2024. Through multiple measures, including economic prosperity, energy, crime and population growth, “Big Ron” is winning all of them.

California cannot even keep its own electrical grid running, and yet is busy banning the sale of new gasoline cars, as well as natural gas furnaces and boilers. The state wants these internal combustion cars gone but is advising residents not to charge their electric cars since the state can’t handle power demands. How will this work for the state in a decade when new gas cars are banned and the state’s energy deficit is worse? There is little doubt that Newsom would pursue similar foolish — and dangerous — energy policies nationwide as president. 

Newsom’s state also has the highest gas prices in the nation, ranks No. 40 in the nation in K-12 education, No. 48 in personal freedom, and is home to the fifth-highest state and local tax burden in the nation. In 2020, California had a violent crime rate significantly higher than the national average, while Florida’s was significantly lower. It has only gotten worse since then. Sacramento reported a 7.2 percent increase in homicides from 2020 to 2021, alongside a 2.9 percent decrease in homicide arrests. The violent crime rate surged 6.7 percent during this same period, while arrests declined by 7.3 percent. All of this is happening while municipalities such as San Francisco haven’t arrested anyone in almost half of crimes reported and shoplifting below $950 effectively has been decriminalized. Families are forced to live in increasingly unsafe neighborhoods, all while the state is actively restricting their Second Amendment right to self-protection.  

Add it together and you can start to understand why Newsom’s California is also the No. 1 state that residents are leaving. Florida is like a completely opposite image. It’s the state attracting the most new entries, and is astonishingly well-run under DeSantis. Florida just announced a major working-class tax cut, especially impressive for a state with no personal income tax. The state’s low taxes have not affected the budget negatively; in fact, Florida currently has a massive $22 billion surplus, with DeSantis bulking up on the state’s rainy day fund. The tax burden in California is about 50 percent higher than the average in Florida. Florida has a staggeringly low 2.7 percent unemployment rate, while California is more than 50 percent higher, tying for 38th place nationwide at 4.1 percent. Florida also boasts gasoline more than $2 per gallon less expensive than in California. Whereas California is near the bottom in personal freedom, Florida is No. 2.

The COVID pandemic revealed a stark contrast between the governors’ leadership and decision-making skills. DeSantis kept Florida open as much of the country locked down, allowing citizens and businesses alike to make their own risk calculations. Florida exited the pandemic without clamping down on students’ ability to go to school, businesses’ ability to stay alive, and with economic and individual liberties intact. Meanwhile, California suffered the worst small business closure numbers in the country during the pandemic, and some students were kept out of school for more than a year. 

Still, there have been few political repercussions for California’s rapid descent. Living in an effectively one-party state, Newsom has been shielded from any responsibility and pumped full of federal emergency and stimulus funds to ruin what is left of what was once Ronald Reagan’s California. Competence is not what always wins elections. But Ron DeSantis has not only the best record among the 50 governors but also the panache and unique political foresight to walk his talk. 

Should DeSantis become the Republican nominee, voters across the country will have to ask themselves: Which version of America do they want, Florida or California? Betting from the U-Haul rental statistics, we already know the answer.

Kristin Tate is a libertarian writer and an analyst for Young Americans for Liberty. She is an author whose latest book is “How Do I Tax Thee? A Field Guide to the Great American Rip-Off.” Follow her on Twitter @KristinBTate.

Tags 2024 presidential election Bernie Sanders Biden California Conservative Elizabeth Warren Florida Gavin Newsom Gavin Newsom Kamala Harris Pete Buttigieg progressives Ron DeSantis Ron DeSantis

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