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As Newsom kicks off second term, speculation about White House run grows

While he vowed to serve the full four years if he won reelection, California Governor Gavin Newsom has his sights set on national office — and sooner rather than later, some pundits say.

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (CN) — As California Governor Gavin Newsom officially began his second term Friday surrounded by his family, political experts predicted he may look to the national stage for his political future. 

Newsom's swearing-in took place at the state Capitol and opened with first partner Jennifer Siebel Newsom.

“As the most populous and culturally diverse state in the nation, we’ve seen our shared belief in the power of empathy, care and inclusivity bringing us together as one California family,”  she said. She read the poem “Together We Go California” in Spanish, by Juan Felipe Herrera, former poet laureate of the United States.

Jennifer Siebel Newsom speaks to a crowd at the Sacramento Capitol. (Screenshot via Courthouse News)

In his speech, Newsom reminisced about how much the state has changed since his Irish family arrived 170 years ago, with the population growing from 93,000 then to nearly 40 million residents today.

“I hear the echoes in the stories of migrants that cross our southern border seeking something better,” he said. “In people who come from every continent on Earth to flee political persecution. Or from other states to educate themselves in our world-class universities.”

Newsom also acknowledged that the ceremony took place on the two-year anniversary of the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, for which hundreds are being prosecuted and probes continue into whether attempts were made on the lives of elected lawmakers. He called it “an insurrectionist mob ransacking a sacred pillar of our democracy, violently clashing with sworn officers upholding the rule of law.”

Newsom also pointed to efforts across the country by those who “want to take the nation backward."

“They’re promoting grievance and victimhood, in an attempt to erase so much of the progress you and I have witnessed in our lifetimes,” he said.

“They make it harder to vote and easier to buy illegal guns. They silence speech, fire teachers, kidnap migrants, subjugate women, attack the Special Olympics, and even demonize Mickey Mouse. All camouflaged under a hijacking of the word 'freedom.'”

Gavin Newsom's children lead the crowd in the Pledge of Allegiance. (Screenshot via Courthouse News)

Newsom described California as a place where people can escape oppression for true freedom and reminded the crowd how many people, from Indigenous people to enslaved Black residents and Chinese immigrants, experienced such oppression as the state was built.

“In our finest hours, California has been freedom’s force multiplier, protecting liberty from a rising tide of oppression taking root in statehouses — weakness, masquerading as strength,” he said. “Small men in big offices. More than any people, in any place, California has  bridged the historical expanse between freedom for some, and freedom for all.”

Given that this will be Newsom’s last four-year term as governor, there is much speculation about his political future after nearly 30 years in politics. He swore that if reelected he would serve a full term — but having handily won with 62% of the vote against a little-known Republican state Senator Brian Dahle a year after beating a recall attempt, experts are already making predictions.

Newsom won a second term and beat the recall by nearly the same percentage as his first term despite some criticism of his handling of recent wildfires and of homelessness. He has spent the past year signing a raft of liberal legislation that could help him win over Democratic voters in a contested presidential primary, including more than a dozen laws aimed at making California a sanctuary for women from other states seeking abortions after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade.

Next he wants to pass a windfall tax on oil companies to combat the state’s record-high gas prices. But his second term comes as state tax collections falling below expectations, setting up a potential round of unpopular budget cuts.

Despite these challenges and some vocal detractors, Newsom remains a charismatic and very well-funded figure according to Kamy Akhavan, executive director at USC’s Dornsife Center for the Political Future.

Newsom speaks to a crowd in Sacramento, Calif. at his second swearing in. (Screenshot via Courthouse News)

“Gavin Newsom has been clearly and skillfully positioning himself to be relevant beyond his role as California governor,” Akhavan said. “He over-performed in the recall election, and his margin of victory surprised even his most loyal supporters." 

Akhavan said most insiders expect Newsom to consider running for president in 2024 or 2028. 

“If Biden runs for a second term, Newsom may also enter the Senate race in hopes of taking Feinstein’s seat, assuming the 89-year-old retires on or before Jan. 3, 2025, when her term ends,” Akhavan said. “It is hard to imagine that he does not seek the U.S. presidency in the next five years.”

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