California Gov. Gavin Newsom didn’t mince words about Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ electoral prospects in a Fox News “debate” the two men took part in Thursday.
“You’re trolling folks and trying to find migrants to play political games, to try to get some news and attention, so you can out-Trump Trump. And, by the way, how’s that going for you, Ron? You’re down 41 points in your own home state,” Newsom said during a segment on immigration and the border.
Newsom, the Democrat who’s led California since 2019, also made it clear at the top of the event that Florida’s Republican governor doesn’t stand a chance against Donald Trump, the front-runner for the GOP presidential nomination. DeSantis, once widely regarded as the top alternative to the former president, has ceded that title to Nikki Haley, the former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, who has practically caught up to DeSantis with less than two months to go before the Jan. 15 Iowa caucuses.
“One thing in closing that we have in common is neither of us will be the nominee for our party in 2024,” Newsom told DeSantis, touching on a conspiracy theory that Newsom will somehow be anointed the Democratic nominee over President Joe Biden despite not actually running in the Democratic presidential primary. Newsom does harbor political ambitions beyond the state of California — and hasn’t ruled out running for president in 2028 — but he’s made no moves toward challenging Biden. He insisted that his appearance alongside DeSantis was in service of his party and the White House.
The debate, ultimately a footnote in the larger presidential election cycle, still presented an opportunity for both men to reach a national audience. It gave DeSantis in particular the chance to show GOP voters how he stands up in a head-to-head against a Democrat. But it didn’t go great.
The meeting was billed as a red state vs. blue state debate, hosted by Fox News talking head Sean Hannity. There was plenty of crosstalk, name-calling and arguing about which state’s economy is better and which governor had the superior approach to the coronavirus pandemic.
The dynamic ended up being Hannity and DeSantis vs. Newsom, whom the two right-wingers accused of running a shadow campaign for president in 2024. Hannity suggested that Newsom would somehow be secretly anointed at the 2024 Democratic convention instead of Biden, because of Biden’s age.
“You’re making this stuff up about a shadow campaign,” Newsom said.
“If at the DNC convention they ask you, ‘Will you run?’ What will you say?” Hannity pressed.
“Joe Biden will be our nominee in a matter of weeks, Sean,” Newsom said. “And in a matter of weeks, [DeSantis] will be endorsing Donald Trump as the nominee for the Republican Party.”
When DeSantis pushed Newsom to address Biden’s “cognitive decline,” Newsom snapped back: “I would take Joe Biden at 100 versus Ron DeSantis any day of the week, at any age.”