SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — California Gov. Gavin Newsom will travel to Iowa to campaign for Sen. Kamala Harris as she tries to rebound amid a critical stretch in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination.
Newsom will visit the first voting state Dec. 14-15 on behalf of Harris, his home-state senator and longtime friend and political ally. His visit will come as Harris tries to claw back from single digits in the polls and defy the narrative that her campaign is collapsing ahead of the Feb. 3 caucuses.
“The governor of California is a big deal, and he’ll get a lot of attention,” said Bill Carrick, a California political strategist who led Richard Gephardt’s unsuccessful Democratic presidential campaign in 1988. “As we get moving into the end of the year here, every campaign needs people out there, multiple people out there that can attract some attention and some crowds.”
Harris has staked her campaign on a strong showing in Iowa and recently spent six days over the Thanksgiving holiday campaigning in the state. But she’s still stuck in single digits in most polls, far from the top of the pack that includes former Vice President Joe Biden and South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg.
In recent weeks her campaign has been beset by a series of negative stories in the media. The New York Times obtained a scathing resignation letter from a staff member who left in November and now works for Michael Bloomberg’s presidential campaign.
Newsom’s visit is an example of the public support that Harris still commands from allies in her home state, where her term as senator continues through 2022.
Both Newsom and Harris started their political careers in the San Francisco Bay Area. He was elected mayor of the famously liberal city in 2003, the year she won the race for district attorney.
Both were considered ambitious politicians with statewide appeal, but they avoided an electoral collision when Harris opted to run for U.S. Senate in 2016 rather than challenge Newsom two years later for the governorship.
“They’re political siblings, and they understand each other far better than most because of the similarities of their trajectories,” said Dan Newman, a political adviser to Newsom and former adviser to Harris. “He’s also seen her counted out time and again.”
Newsom, who was not made available for an interview Monday, will campaign in Des Moines, Cedar Rapids and Coralville on Dec. 14 and 15. He’ll speak to volunteers before door knocking, attend a house party and hold conversations on climate change and LGBTQ rights.
Harris often touts her support for LGBTQ rights on the trail by talking about how she married gay couples in San Francisco in 2004. Newsom famously chose to defy federal law that year by allowing gay couples in the city to marry. It was a move that vaulted him into the national spotlight and the list of someday presidential contenders.
Neither Carrick nor Newman said he thinks Newsom’s trip to Iowa is about furthering his own political ambitions.
But his visit will offer a test of how a governor of one of the nation’s most liberal states plays in the Midwest. Newsom, for his part, has said he’s focused on his job as governor.
But he’s rapidly elevated his national profile during his first year in office as he’s sparred repeatedly with Republican President Donald Trump on topics including climate change and immigration policy.
In an October interview with The Associated Press, Newsom said Harris entered the race at a disadvantage to candidates such as Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders, who were better known on the national stage.
"The fact she's still a top-tier candidate is in and of itself pretty extraordinary," he said at the time. "I think we set really high expectations ... but I think she's now about where if she started this campaign without that expectation of those first few weeks, she'd be probably pretty satisfied because she's in the mix."