Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis poked fun at California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Thursday for having a “fixation” on Florida and daring him to “stop pussyfooting around” and enter the 2024 presidential race to “challenge Joe [Biden].”
“You know, it’s interesting. He’s got huge problems in his state, I mean, huge problems in his state. We all know that,” DeSantis said during a press conference in Fort Piers, Florida. “You see it in San Francisco, you see it in [Los Angeles], you see it in the people fleeing. California, from its inception, gained population every single year until he became governor. California was probably the height of opportunity for middle class Americans for many, many decades in this country.… People were drawn there, and yet, he’s the first governor that’s overseen a massive exodus out of California.”
DeSantis’ remarks came after he was asked about a debate Newsom proposed during an interview with Sean Hannity on the Fox News Channel earlier this week.
“If somebody comes from Minnesota, moves to Naples, you know, better winters all this stuff. If you’re leaving Southern California to move to Jacksonville — which is a great place — you’re not doing it because of the weather, because they’ve probably got the best weather in the country. You’re doing it because the place is so mismanaged and ill governed, that you just can’t take it anymore,” DeSantis said.
“Yet with all those problems, he has a real serious fixation on the state of Florida,” added DeSantis, a front-runner in the GOP presidential primary race. “I think its just bizarre that he does that. What I would tell him is you know what, stop pussyfooting around. Are you going to throw your hat in the ring and challenge Joe? Are you going to get in and do it or are you just gonna sit on the sidelines and chirp? Why don’t you throw your hat in the ring, and then we’ll go ahead and talk about what’s happening.”
Asked about a debate between himself and the popular Florida Republican, Newsom, who’s been speculated to enter the 2024 race for the White House in a direct challenge to Biden, told Hannity on Monday: “I’m all in. Count on it.”
“You would do a two-hour debate with Ron DeSantis?” Hannity inquired.
“Make it three,” Newsom responded. “I would do it one day’s notice with no notes. I look forward to that.”
Asked by Hannity whether he believes Biden is “cognitively strong enough to be president,” Newsom, who has routinely dismissed talk about him entering the 2024 presidential race and challenging Biden, said yes.
Newsom has previously said he supports Biden’s re-election campaign. In April, Newsom raised money for Biden during a fundraiser in Washington shortly after the president announced his reelection campaign.
But Newsom has continued to raise his national profile, fueling more speculation that he is laying the groundwork for a presidential campaign beyond 2024. After coasting to reelection as governor in 2022, Newsom took the millions of dollars left over in his campaign account to start a new political action committee.
Newsom said he plans to use the money to support Democrats running for office in Republican-dominated states like Arkansas, Alabama and Mississippi. Last week, Newsom said the committee would campaign for a 28th amendment to the U.S. Constitution to harden federal gun laws.
Last year, Newsom conceded that Republicans were “winning right now” in part because he said Democrats were too timid, giving conservatives the most compelling narrative over the airwaves.
A Quinnipiac University poll released in March found that 70% of California voters, including a majority of Democrats, do not think their governor should make a bid for the White House next fall, with only 22% hoping Newsom gets into the race.
Fox News’ Aubrie Spady and The Associated Press contributed to this report.