It was only two months ago that Gov. Gavin Newsom called California “the most un-Trump state in America” and taunted the president for losing the golden state by more than 4 million votesin 2016.
But the pair’s normally tense and combative relationship looks a lot different in the midst of a global pandemic.
While some have blamed the president for not taking the threat of the coronavirus seriously early on, Newsom has avoided any criticism, even when given a chance. Instead, he’s praised Trump as being “responsive” and a “partner” during the crisis.
The Democratic governor has acknowledged his shift in tone and said an emergency isn’t the time for politics.
“We’re in 68 lawsuits with this administration and I have not held back,” he said during a recent press briefing. “But I’ve got to tell you, I’m not interested in trying to pick apart arguments and take cheap shots.”
But Newsom’s change in tone regarding the president is likely a strategy, according to Republican political strategist Rob Stutzman.
“You definitely get more cooperation from the president when you’re praising him,” Stutzman said. “He responds well to that type of sycophancy”
Stutzman also points out that this isn’t a new strategy for Newsom. As governor-elect, he refrained from politicizing or criticizing Trump during the president’s visit to see the devastation from massive wildfires in the state in 2018.
“I think for both reasons: one, to get optimal cooperation and secondly, that he is going to rise far above politics as an emergency manager are probably why we have heard him be so deferential and complimentary to the president,” Stutzman said.
Newsom’s strategy seems to be working so far. While Trump has singled out governors from Michigan and Washington for not being appreciative enough, the president has welcomed the praise from one of his regular critics.
“Gavin Newsom has been really good,” Trump said at a recent White House Briefing.
He acknowledged that he and Newsom have clashed over other issues like immigration and wildfires. “But here we are, getting along very well. And I appreciate his nice words, I really do,” he said.
So far, Newsom has gotten what he’s asked for from the feds — a Navy hospital ship is docked in Los Angeles and FEMA has sent field medical stations to add another 2,000 emergency hospital beds to the state’s supply.
But at the same time, Newsom seems to recognize that he may not get much more than that from the Trump administration.
He pointed out on ABC’s “The View” last week that of the tens of millions of masks California has distributed, only one million have come from the national stockpile.
“That’s not a cheap shot, that’s not finger pointing – it’s just reality,” he said. “So when you ask, are we going to rely on the federal government or are we going to rely on ourselves? We’re going to rely disproportionately on ourselves.”
Still, experts say the economic impacts of the coronavirus could linger for years, and Newsom has said that’s where California will need help from the federal government in the future.
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