Nov 30, 2023 - News

DeSantis to debate California Gov. Gavin Newsom tonight

Gavin Newsom on a stage gesturing with a hand, and Ron DeSantis smiling with tight lips.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. Left photo: Liu Guanguan/China News Service/VCG via Getty Images; Right photo: Joe Burbank/Orlando Sentinel/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis will debate California Gov. Gavin Newsom Thursday night in a red state vs. blue state showdown long in the making.

Why it matters: DeSantis, a Republican, is running for president but has struggled to separate himself in the GOP primary field as the top challenger to former President Trump.

  • Newsom is not running, but he is seen as a surrogate for the Biden administration.

Context: Primary elections to determine the 2024 presidential nominees are coming up in Iowa and New Hampshire in January.

  • Recently, DeSantis has been dropping in polls, with likely voters indicating they'd prefer Trump as the Republican nominee. Former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley has gained support.

What they're saying: Thursday night's debate will be moderated by Sean Hannity, who is a conservative ally of Trump, but told Politico he would to be fair to both debaters.

  • "I'm into mixed martial arts and anybody that steps into the octagon, I have deep respect for because you're stepping into a war," he said.

The intrigue: Newsom challenged DeSantis to a debate more than a year ago and has been one of DeSantis' fiercest critics on the national stage.

  • It's unusual for a non-candidate to debate a candidate, but Newsom is seen as likely to run for the presidency in the future, and Thursday night's event could raise his profile among voters nationwide.
  • In previous interviews with Hannity, he has emphasized commonalities with right-leaning voters. "I want border security," he said, comparing his outlook to Ronald Reagan's.
  • Newsom called DeSantis a "small, pathetic man" after he orchestrated flights that sent migrants to Democratic enclaves.

Yes, but: DeSantis has blamed "woke ideology" for a decline in the quality of life in left-leaning cities such as San Francisco, saying they have problems with drugs, homelessness and crime.

  • DeSantis's campaign manager James Uthmeier told the Los Angeles Times, "A Newsom presidency would accelerate America's decline and Nov. 30 will be the first chance to expose a national audience to just how dangerous his radical ideology would be for the country."

If you watch: The debate will air on Fox News and be streamed on Fox News Radio at 9pm.

  • It's taking place in a studio in Georgia, with no audience.
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