Florida GOP Governor Ron DeSantis Ratchets Up Feud with Newsom and Dares California Governor to Take on Biden in 2024

GOP Florida Governor Ron DeSantis escalated his feud with Democrat California Governor Gavin Newsom Thursday, daring him to “stop pussyfooting around” and launch a Dem primary challenge against President Joe Biden. 

Gov. DeSantis, who announced his presidential campaign last month, took on the Golden State’s governor during a news conference in Florida when he was asked about Newsom’s recent comments to Fox News agreeing to a hypothetical debate with DeSantis and hosted by Sean Hannity. 

“He’s got huge problems in his state — I mean, like, huge problems in his state,” said DeSantis. “Yet with all those problems, he has a real serious fixation on the state of Florida. I think it’s just bizarre.”

DeSantis then focused on the Democrats’ 2024 primary election, where Biden only faces minimal opposition. 

“You know what? Stop pussyfooting around,” said DeSantis. “Are you gonna throw your hat in the ring and challenge Joe? Are you going to get in and do it?”

DeSantis’ jabs come as he tries to shy away from confrontation with his top rival in the Republican White House primary, former President Donald Trump. Newsom stated previously he would not challenge President Biden in the 2024 primary but has taken steps to boost his profile nationally in recent months. 

Several of Trump’s GOP rivals have voiced concerns about his federal indictment, while DeSantis has largely avoided the subject. The governor briefly mentioned the charges in a weekend speech to the North Carolina GOP and focused most of his criticism on the Biden administration and the Justice Department. 

DeSantis has been more likely to join fights against Democrats and the media.

For example, a pro-DeSantis super political action committee released a video Thursday titled “Punching Back,” highlighting DeSantis’ frequent confrontations with the media. 

A spokesperson for Newsom didn’t respond directly to DeSantis’ latest comments but noted that Newsom attended Disneyland’s Pride night this week with company CEO Bob Iger. Disney sued DeSantis, alleging that he undertook a “targeted campaign of government retaliation” after the company opposed a law in the state that critics have dubbed “Don’t Say Gay.”

A senior Newsom adviser, Ace Smith, responded to DeSantis’ new challenge on Twitter: “Your whining is very unpresidential!”

DeSantis, Newsom have a long history of an adversarial relationship

Newsom and DeSantis have long been political adversaries over their opposing stances on LGBTQ issues, gun safety, immigration, and other issues. Still, their rhetoric has increased in recent weeks as the Florida governor has resumed its migrant relocation operation, transporting several dozen asylum-seekers to California. 

Initially, Florida remained silent about the two flights that landed in Sacramento in early June until officials with the state eventually released a video of migrants signing documents and smiling and waving on a transport. It marks the latest relocations by the DeSantis administration that last year orchestrated travel from the border to Martha’s Vineyard.

Even before Florida took credit for the migrant flights, Newsom aimed at DeSantis, calling him a “small, pathetic man.” This week, the governor of California said he was willing to partake in a debate with DeSantis moderated by Sean Hannity on “one day’s notice with no notes.” 

Newsom went further to blast DeSantis’ chance in the upcoming GOP primary, where Newsom predicted that “Trump is going to clean his clock.”

Gov. DeSantis defended his administration’s decision to fly migrants to California; however, until now, he hasn’t directly responded to the sharp criticism from Newsom. After being asked about the possibility of a debate Thursday, DeSantis attacked Newsom, saying he is facing “huge problems” in California and has “overseen a massive exodus” in the state due to it being “mismanaged and ill-governed.”

“Are you going to get in and to it, or are you going to sit on the sidelines and chirp?” said DeSantis Thursday. “So why don’t you throw your hat into the ring, and then we’ll go ahead and talk about what’s happening.”