For nearly a year, Gavin Newsom, the California governor who swears he has “subzero interest” in running for president, has asked to debate Ron DeSantis. Finally, the struggling Republican presidential candidate has accepted.
“Absolutely, I’m game,” DeSantis told Sean Hannity on Thursday. “Let’s get this done. Just tell me when and where.”
Newsom, through a spokesperson, responded, “Nov. 8 or 10,” before quickly returning to a fighting performance: “DeSantis should put up or shut up. Anything else is just games.”
No one wants this debate. Well, except for Dan Rather, but he said that a year ago. Now, it’s even less needed.
One man is a stand-in for the party’s steady autocratic drift and represents a clear extension of Trump-era policies; the other is the product of hair gel, Resistance Twitter (at best), and a demonstrated inability to sit still. Both share a common affliction: a white-hot ambition that compels them to force their personalities onto civilians now left wondering why we’d want to watch a man whose presidential campaign is in freefall argue on stage with a man who literally has to explain his actions in an email titled, “I am writing today to explain why I am debating Ron DeSantis.” (The same email included Newsom’s claim that he is selfless, a mere servant of Joe Biden seeking to defend the president’s agenda.) Each has an unmistakable thirst for the White House, and for very different reasons, neither is likely to get there, at least in 2024.
It’s far from coincidence that DeSantis has surrendered to Newsom’s taunting as his presidential campaign is very publicly collapsing. And with Donald Trump essentially ignoring his calls to debate, DeSantis isn’t left with many options. Yet one has to wonder how the image of DeSantis debating a man who is neither Trump nor Biden helps him here. I imagine it’ll only add to his awkward, rizz-less reputation. As for Newsom, it looks like he’s really leaning into that refusal to sit still.