Nov 30, 2023 - Politics & Policy

DeSantis and Newsom to debate in primetime preview of 2028 contest

Photos: Jim Vondruska, Mario Tama/Getty Images

Two governors with national profiles are set to take the stage on Thursday night for an unusual Fox News showdown between a presidential candidate and a top national surrogate for an incumbent president.

Why it matters: Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) and California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) are likely to spar over their dueling conservative and progressive visions in a showdown that could also serve as a preview for future contests.

Zoom in: DeSantis, 45, who has struggled to gain ground on former President Trump, has less than two months until voting begins in the GOP primary as he seeks to break former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley's momentum.

  • The debate presents DeSantis, elected governor in 2018, with an opportunity to present his conservative ideals without the flame-throwing and noise of a crowded debate stage against his GOP rivals.
  • It also gives him a chance to show how he'd confront a Democrat on a debate stage next November, with Newsom emerging as a proxy for the Biden re-elect campaign, NBC News notes.

Newsom, 56, also elected governor in 2018, is committed to helping Biden win his re-election campaign and has rejected any rumors that he is running a shadow campaign for president in 2024.

  • Viewed as a possible future presidential hopeful, the debate gives Newsom an opportunity to present his policy views and boost his national profile in front of a national audience.

Between the lines: Regardless of how next year's presidential election shakes out, 2024 is unlikely to be the end of the road for the two ambitious, high-profile state leaders.

  • "There's a lot at stake here, and there's a lot at stake because these two also potentially match up in 2028," Sonoma State political science professor David McCuan told CBS Sacramento.
  • McCuan said he expects Newsom to try to grab the moderate label before the Fox News audience.
  • 51% of Florida voters approve of the job DeSantis is doing as governor, while 56% of Californian voters approve of Newsom's job performance, according to Morning Consult.

The big picture: Both governors are locked in an escalating feud over culture wars, hitting each other over handling of issues including abortion, crime and COVID-19 response.

  • They've both presented their states as models for success and havens for members of their party.
  • DeSantis in a fundraising video earlier this month said that California is "the petri dish for American leftism, while Newsom ran an ad in Florida last year saying that freedoms are under attack in the Sunshine State.

Flashback: During a 2022 debate during DeSantis' gubernatorial re-election campaign, the rowdy crowd dominated the room.

What to watch: The nationally televised 90-minute debate, starting at 9 p.m. ET, is being presented as "The Great Red vs. Blue State Debate."

  • Fox News host Sean Hannity is set to moderate.

Go deeper: Biden's GOP debate strategy: Send Newsom

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