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Tim Walz during his inauguration in St. Paul, Minn.
Tim Walz during his inauguration in St. Paul, Minn., on Jan. 2, 2023. Abbie Parr / AP file

Eyes on 2024: Gov. Tim Walz on Biden, DeSantis and the culture war

Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz spoke openly about his progressive priorities, President Biden's re-election campaign and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.

By and

Minnesota Democratic Gov. Tim Walz has had a pretty good eight months. He won re-election by a comfortable margin; his party secured majorities in both the state House and Senate; and the legislature went on to pass a slew of Democratic priorities like abortion and transgender protections, free school breakfast and lunch and new gun laws.

Sitting down with a small group of reporters Thursday in Washington D.C., Walz spoke openly about his legislative successes and the 2024 election.

On Biden: Walz praised the Biden administration’s legislative agenda as “the catalyst” for many of the accomplishments at the state level, but he admitted the president has struggled selling himself to the American people. 

“They’re having a challenging time ... connecting the achievements of the Biden administration — whether it’s the [infrastructure bill] or the IRA [the Democratic spending bill] or the CHIPs Act, connecting it to real lives and real job creation,” Walz said. Calling Biden’s impact “grossly underestimated,” Walz added he doesn’t know why the White House is having that struggle, but Democrats, including the governor, “are going to have to figure out how to make that message better.”

Would he be running for president if Biden wasn’t? “Well, he is. I had a really great chief of staff in my congressional office who always told me: ‘Don’t turn down a job you haven’t been asked [to do.]’ I’m certainly not running for that, but I certainly like taking this message out. … My goal right now is to tout Minnesota’s successes and to support President Biden.” 

On DeSantis: Noting how Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis has been celebrating how Florida has been pulling in new residents from across the country, Walz argued that a suite of progressive victories could help states like Minnesota make a strong pitch, too. 

“Like no time in my lifetime, the choice in states you could pick could not be greater,” he said. “Folks don’t really care about the woke corporation fights, they care about the roads and water treatment plants.”

On the culture war: Walz framed the fights over issues like abortion access and transgender rights as places where Democrats should give no quarter. And he defended Minnesota-based Target Corp. after it received protests and threats for selling LGBTQ-themed merchandise, arguing companies should be just as free to sell pro-LGBT items as they are to sell fly-fishing equipment in a world where not everyone fly-fishes. 

“You want me to moderate my hate?” he asked facetiously. “What percentage do I need to be taking away women’s body autonomy to make you happy on this?”

In other campaign news … 

Biden’s abortion strategy: Abortion is expected to be a major issue in Biden’s re-election campaign, and his campaign manager Julie Chávez Rodríguez told Politico they will “continue to find ways to make it front and center.” On Friday, Biden won the endorsements of EMILY’s List, NARAL and Planned Parenthood. 

Another Florida man? The New York Times reported Thursday that Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla, is considering running for president. But Scott quickly refuted the report, telling NBC News’ Liz Brown-Kaiser, “No, I’m running for Senate.” 

Hedging: Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis declined during a press conference to say if he would support Trump, given Trump’s recent criticism of DeSantis’ response to the Covid pandemic, per Politico. Also on Thursday, DeSantis rolled out endorsements from 15 South Carolina lawmakers

TikTok on the clock, the campaign will stop: Biden’s re-election campaign will not have an account on TikTok amid national security concerns about the app’s ties to China. But NBC News’ Monica Alba, Mike Memoli and Carol E. Lee report that Biden’s campaign “still plans to have a presence on the popular video-sharing site.”

Trump trials and tribulations: A recent court filing revealed that special counsel Jack Smith has given Trump’s team his first batch of evidence in the case over Trump’s handling of classified documents. And the man who served as the deputy director of Election Day operations for Trump’s 2020 campaign testified in front of a federal grand jury investigating Trump’s role in the Jan. 6 Capitol riot and his effort to overturn the 2020 election.

Hurd won’t take the pledge: Former Texas GOP Rep. Will Hurd, the latest entrant to the crowded GOP presidential field, told CNN he would not pledge to support the party’s nominee (a condition for making the debate stage) because he won’t support Trump. 

Welcome to Miami: SOS America PAC, which is backing Miami Mayor Francis Suarez’s GOP presidential bid, says it’s launching a $1 million national television campaign as the mayor looks to gain enough traction to make the August debate stage. 

The Daily RFK: Robert F. Kennedy Jr. told SiriusXM that he believes Russia has been “acting in good faith,” and “we’re the ones who have not been acting in good faith” when it comes to finding peace after Russia invaded Ukraine. 

Personal with Peters: Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Chairman Gary Peters, D-Mich., sat down with NBC News’ Ali Vitali and Liz Brown-Kaiser to discuss how abortion could affect the 2024 battle for the Senate. And he delved into his own personal experience with abortion

Calling the feds: Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron asked the FBI to investigate campaign donations made to Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear, whom Cameron is challenging in the fall. The donations were tied to one credit card and Beshear’s campaign has said it will refund donations that were above state limits, per the Associated Press.