California Gov. Gavin Newsom was in China meeting with CCP President Xi Jinping earlier this week leading many to wonder, including a congressman from his own state, whether he is running a ‘shadow’ campaign for president in case Democrats ultimately look for an alternative to President Biden as crises pile up on his watch at home and abroad.

The California Democrat met with Xi and other Chinese officials as part of a week-long trip he said was aimed at discussing the threat of climate change and ‘renewing our friendship and reengaging (on) foundational and fundamental issues that will determine our collective faith in the future.’

Newsom faced criticism as a result of his trip from people who said that homelessness, crime, and fentanyl are more pressing problems in the Golden State and one GOP congressman spoke both to Fox News Digital and through a social media post to suggest Newsom has the presidency on his mind via a ‘shadow campaign.’

‘The track record is not good for him to be gallivanting around the world doing basically a shadow campaign for president, just waiting for the moment when they finally decide to throw Biden under the bus,’ Rep. Doug LaMalfa, R-Calif., said, referring to Newsom as the ‘backup quarterback’ and Biden as the ‘starter.’

LaMalfa told Fox News Digital that his constituents in California are more concerned with wildfires, water storage, businesses fleeing the state, high taxes, and deteriorating freeways than they are with climate change.

‘I remind folks that carbon dioxide is only 0.04% of our atmosphere and that the contribution by the US is a tiny percentage of that,’ LaMalfa said. ‘And the transportation sector and others is a tiny percentage of that. So chasing this carbon thing is just a means with which the government can further take over our economy and our choices.’

LaMalfa went on to say he recently spoke to a moderate California Democrat colleague who seemed ‘not very excited’ about Newsom, pointing out that Newsom is ‘slick’ with many ‘rehearsed talking points’ that could easily ‘dupe’ voters.

‘This trip here, he’s trying to build a base,’ LaMalfa said. ‘He’s running the back channels until Biden takes himself out and the party says man we’re going to get killed on this.’

‘With Trump looking more and more like a likely nominee pulling ahead in most places from what I’ve seen then the Dems are, I think I saw in our notes here, that they would need to break the glass and reach in for the Newsom fire extinguisher.’

LaMalfa was one of several California Republicans who blasted Newsom showing off a $160K Chinese electric vehicle earlier this week. 

Newsom’s trip to China was the second trip in recent weeks that reignited theories that he is positioning himself for higher office. Last week, Newsom traveled to Israel and met with leaders and victims of the Oct. 7 Hamas terror attack.

In addition to the statesmanlike trip to China and Israel, Newsom has kept a high profile over the last few months including a role as a Biden surrogate at the most recent GOP presidential debate in California and a much talked about challenge to debate Florida governor and presidential candidate Ron DeSantis on Fox News at the end of November, which DeSantis accepted.

Newsom has also been active when it comes to policy in recent months.

He recently called on the Supreme Court to review a ruling preventing states from removing homeless encampments. He vetoed a bill that would have decriminalized psychedelic mushrooms earlier this month and also vetoed a bill that would have forced employers to provide earlier notices of mass layoffs.

He has also recently signed legislation promoting LGBT inclusion, requiring companies to provide emission information, and a law to ‘overhaul’ the state’s mental health system.

Newsom’s recent trips abroad and focus on policy over the last couple months comes as Biden continues to see crises piling up on his watch, including the border crisis, inflation, skyrocketing crime in major cities, and major foreign policy failures, including the botched Afghanistan withdrawal. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) announced this past weekend that migrant numbers at the southern border for the month of September had reached new levels with the highest monthly encounters on record as well as the highest fiscal year total on record, in a significant blow to the administration’s border strategy.

A recent poll found that nearly two-thirds of New Yorkers blame President Biden for the migrant crisis, raising national security, financial and other concerns in the Empire State. Other polls over the last few months have shown that voters are concerned about Biden’s age and his physical fitness. 

A Monmouth University poll released earlier this month showed that 76% of voters agreed Biden, 80, was ‘too old’ to serve another term, compared to just 48% who said the same about Trump, 77. 

LaMalfa wasn’t alone in his speculation that Newsom is positioning himself for higher office evidenced by a flurry of social media speculation in recent days.

‘Newsom is currently in China, running a shadow campaign for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination, just in case President Biden succumbs to the realities of his age and waning mental capacity,’ columnist Derek Hunter wrote in an opinion piece for The Hill this week. 

‘It is yet another GIANT indicator that Gavin Newsom will indeed run for president next year,’ Fox News Contributor Tomi Lahren posted on X.

‘Why is the Governor of California going to China to meet with their dictator?’ Conservative commentator Benny Johnson posted on X. ‘Why is the Governor of California going to Israel during wartime? Democrats want to replace Joe Biden.’

Fox News’ ‘Outnumbered’ co-host Kayleigh McEnany appeared on ‘Jesse Watters Primetime’ earlier this week to weigh in on the Newsom China trip, telling Watters the trip is part of a ‘shadow presidential campaign.’ The former White House press secretary went on to say Newsom ‘is not an idiot’ and that Biden has had multiple foreign policy failures, adding, ‘Who trusts him to manage our way out of this crisis in the Middle East?’

Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., who is running for president, speculated during a recent Ruthless Podcast episode that  the Democrats are ‘grooming someone’ to be a ‘back-up plan’ to Biden and suggested Newsom might be their choice based on recent interviews.

Vivek Ramaswamy, another Republican presidential candidate, said Newsom’s trip to China was political, telling Iowans that he believed Newsom was campaigning for president ‘in disguise.’

‘Gavin Newsom wants to run for president in 2024, that much is clear,’ Democrat pollster Doug Schoen wrote this summer. ‘The California governor would not be campaigning for President Joe Biden in red states with 16 months until the presidential election if he wasn’t trying to prove his own political bona fides and build a future base of national support for himself.’

Democratic strategist James Carville sounded the alarm during a recent interview with The Washington Post, saying it was ‘ludicrous’ to avoid debating Biden’s viability next year.

‘The idea that this should not be aired out and should be discussed in hushed tones is ludicrous,’ Carville said of Biden. ‘This needs to be discussed.’

Newsom has denied he’s running for president when asked and told NewsNation’s Chris Cuomo in September that he’s ‘not worthy of that conversation’ and that Biden ‘deserves it.’

Kevin Munoz, a spokesperson for the Biden campaign, pushed back against speculation about Newsom by telling NBC News that ‘Republicans peddling blatantly false conspiracy theories is nothing new’ and that these ‘lies don’t change the fact that Joe Biden will again beat MAGA Republicans and their twice-rejected agenda in 2024 as his party’s nominee for president.’

Fox News Digital reached out to the White House, the Biden campaign, and a representative for Newsom, but they did not respond to requests for comment.

Fox News’ Adam Shaw, Danielle Wallace, and Brandon Gillespie contributed reporting.

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