Newsom claims DeSantis took ‘bait’ in agreeing to debate ‘guy who isn’t even running for president’

Democratic California Gov. Gavin Newsom, who has sparked much speculation about a potential White House bid of his own, claimed Wednesday that Republican presidential candidate Ron DeSantis took the “bait” in agreeing to debate him, a “guy who isn’t even running for president.” 

Newsom attended the second GOP debate of the 20204 cycle in Simi Valley, California, Wednesday on behalf of President Biden’s re-election campaign. Fox News host Sean Hannity is moderating the upcoming 90-minute debate that the Florida governor will be having with Newsom on November 30. 

“Why is he doing it? That’s the right question. He’s running – I think, I’m not sure after tonight, but currently he’s running for president of the United States,” Newsom told FOX 11 Los Angeles anchor Elex Michaelson during a sit-down interview Wednesday. 

Michaelson asked Newsom whether he thinks DeSantis will still be a candidate by November 30. 


“That’s an open-ended question. Part of me wonders,” Newsom said. “The fact that he took this debate. The fact that he took the bait in relation to this debate shows that he’s completely unqualified to be president of the United States. That’s my humble, first, personal opinion.” 

“You’re baiting him with the debate offer?” Michaelson asked. 

“Of course. I mean why is he debating a guy who’s not even running for president when he’s running for president?” Newsom asked. “He’s showing up at the Reagan Library, hallowed ground, and he puts out an ad today not for his presidential campaign, to promote a debate against the governor of California. I mean this guy’s distracted, so I don’t know that he has it in his heart. I think – here’s my personal opinion about Ron DeSantis – he regrets running for president.” 

“He made a huge mistake. He listened to his consultants. He bought his own hype. He had this little God complex,” the California governor added of DeSantis. “I mean, look at the ads themselves . . . literally, God created . . . I mean he bought into all this stuff, and he quickly regretted it, but he’s stuck. And here’s the problem, you get one chance at first impressions – he’s belly flopped. He’s down 30-plus points from where he started. So it’s a terrible situation for him.” 

Fox News Digital reached out to DeSantis’ campaign Thursday for comment about Newsom’s “bait” remark, but they did not immediately respond.

Newsom faced some criticism online over the running-for-president remark, as many doubted that he wouldn’t enter the 2024 race if 80-year-old Biden were to opt out for some reason. 

“This is Gavin Newsom walking back that he stabbed Kamala Harris in the back. Gosh, golly, why would he debate little old me who is totally super not running for president, swear,” Fox News contributor Karol Markowicz posted on X.

Writing to his more than 732,000 followers, Craft Ventures general partner David Sacks mocked, “‘Who’d want to debate an idiot like Gavin Newsom?’ — Gavin Newsom.”

“So — just to clarify — according to Newsom, assuming good faith, taking someone at their word, and being willing to engage in meaningful debate with fellow leaders renders one unqualified for office. Yeah, that tracks,” writer AJ Kay wrote on X to her nearly 60,000 followers. 

In the spin room after Wednesday’s debate, Hannity also pressed Newsom on whether the California governor would accept the Democratic nomination to run for president in 2024. 

“Of course not,” Newsom finally said. “It’s a hypothetical. It’s ridiculous. Joe Biden’s our president.” 

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