They’re two relatively young and very high-profile governors of large states who have a knack for grabbing national attention and firing up the bases of their respective political parties.
Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom of California and Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida, who have been trading fire for nearly two years, will tangle once again this week — but this time their slugfest will be in person.
DeSantis, who is running for the 2024 GOP presidential nomination, and Newsom — who Republican critics charge is running a shadow campaign for the White House even though he repeatedly stomps on such speculation as ‘ridiculous’ — will face off Thursday in a debate moderated by Fox News’ prime-time opinion host Sean Hannity.
The showdown, titled ‘DeSantis vs. Newsom: The Great Red vs. Blue State Debate,’ will take in Alpharetta, Georgia — a one-time red state that’s become a top general election battleground between the two major political parties.
‘He caters to a very far left slice of the electorate. I think that will be on display when we have the debate,’ DeSantis said as he spoke with Fox News Digital earlier this week during a campaign stop in New Hampshire, the state that holds the first primary and second overall contest in the GOP presidential nominating calendar.
Newsom, in an appearance on Fox News’ ‘Hannity’ earlier this autumn, pointed towards DeSantis and emphasized that ‘I don’t like people who demonize other people or go after vulnerable communities. I also don’t like liars.’
Both governors have outsized national profiles, run the nation’s first and third most populous states, and overwhelmingly won gubernatorial re-elections last year, when their rivalry really heated up.
In 2022, Newsom went up with an ad on Florida airwaves that targeted DeSantis’ culture war approach to politics and policies. ‘Freedom, it’s under attack in your state. Republican leaders, they’re banning books, making it harder to vote, restricting speech in classrooms, even criminalizing women and doctors,’ Newsom argued in his spot.
DeSantis, who became a hero to conservatives nationwide for his pushback against coronavirus pandemic restrictions, earlier this year called San Francisco — the city Newsom served two terms as mayor — a ‘dumpster fire.’
The governors — who’ve long battled on social media over their very different COVID policies — this year have traded fire over the move by DeSantis to fly undocumented migrants from to California. The Florida governor has made border security a top issue in recent years and has repeatedly highlighted his efforts on the 2024 Republican presidential campaign trail.
Last week, a Newsom-aligned political group started running an ad on Fox News’ ‘Hannity’ that slammed DeSantis over the six-week abortion ban in Florida that he signed into law earlier this year.
‘They’re perfect foils for one another. They both lead some of the biggest states in the country. They both have very prominent roles in their respective parties, and they both love attention,’ longtime Republican strategist and communicator Ryan Williams told Fox News.
Williams, a veteran of numerous presidential and statewide campaigns, noted that ‘it’s in their best interests to attack one another. It gets both of their bases riled up. And it gives them a national platform to fight with each other.’
DeSantis, once the clear alternative to former President Donald Trump in the 2024 GOP nomination race, has seen his standing erode over the summer and autumn. He’s currently battling with former ambassador and former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley for second place in the polls, far behind Trump, who remains the commanding Republican front-runner as he makes his third straight White House run.
Newsom is one of the most high-profile surrogates for Biden, who’s running for a second term as president. But the 81-year-old president, saddled for over two-years with underwater approval ratings, has increasingly in recent months faced questions regarding his physical and cognitive ability to serve another four years in the White House. And Biden narrowly trails Trump in many of the most recent polls looking ahead to a likely 2024 general election matchup.
While Newsom has repeatedly shot down speculation he would run for the White House next year should something happen to Biden, a well-publicized trip by the California governor to Israel and China last month sparked further buzz about his possible 2024 ambitions.
DeSantis, speaking with Fox News Digital, argued that ‘I’ve been warning Republican voters… it may not be Biden in 2024.’
‘This guy is running a shadow campaign. He denies it, but even people in his own party are saying it,’ DeSantis said of Newsom. ‘You have [Vice President Kamala] Harris, you have a lot of these other people who could end up running in 2024 if Biden’s not able to do it. I think there’s a lot of people in the Democratic Party who do not want Biden to run. Ultimately, it’s going to be his decision, but I think there’s a lot of pressure there for him to take a step back.’
Fox News’ Jamie Joseph contributed to this report