Ron DeSantis in California says his war of words with Gavin Newsom ‘is all business’
EXCLUSIVE – As he runs for the Republican presidential nomination, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis likes to target one of his favorite foils – Gov. Gavin Newsom.
But DeSantis, in an exclusive interview with Fox News, said that his war of words with California’s two-term Democratic governor isn’t personal.
“To me this is all business. I understand how this game is played,” DeSantis emphasized. “For him, it may be a little bit different.”
DeSantis was interviewed on Friday, minutes before holding a campaign event at the LA Grain Harbor Facility at the Port of Long Beach — to take aim at Newsom and President Biden over electric vehicle mandates in the Golden State.
“California and Florida just have two very different models, and we’ve seen the results of those models. People have fled California since he’s been governor. That’s never happened before. California used to be the state everyone aspired to go to. A lot of them have moved to Florida, which we never had before when I was growing up,” DeSantis reiterated.
DeSantis argued “that’s just a difference in leadership and policy” and that “I think it’s also a window into the country’s future because what they’re doing in California – this is just a few years ahead of what Democrats in Washington typically want to do. California is kind of the leading indicator.”
“So all the policies they’re pursing here that are not working, you can bet your bottom dollar in a Biden second term or if [Vice President Kamala] Harris or Newsom are the candidate, that’s what they would want to do. So the choice is really – our country’s going in the wrong direction. The California model will simply accelerate our country’s decline. The Florida model provides us a model for American revival and reversing the country’s decline.”
DeSantis’ reference to a potential Newsom 2024 presidential run is the latest rampant speculation from Republicans that Newsom’s secretly mulling a White House run in 2024 should something happen to Biden — but Newsom has repeatedly denied eyeing a presidential run next year.
The comments were the latest verbal fireworks in an increasingly bitter battle between DeSantis and Newsom — two governors with outsized national profiles who run the nation’s first and third most populous states.
The war of words between DeSantis and Newsom — which has been flaring for more than a year and a half — shows no signs of letting up.
Newsom went up with an ad on Florida airwaves last year that targeted DeSantis’ culture wars fueled politics and polices. “Freedom, it’s under attack in your state. Republican leaders, they’re banning books, making it harder to vote, restricting speech in classrooms, even criminalizing women and doctors,” Newsom argued in his spot.
Earlier this year, in taking aim at Newsom, DeSantis called San Francisco — the city Newsom served two terms as mayor — a “dumpster fire.”
The governors — who’ve long battled on social media over their very different COVID policies and restrictions during the coronavirus pandemic — this year have traded fire over the move by DeSantis to fly undocumented migrants from to California. The Florida governor has made border security a top issue in recent years and has repeatedly highlighted his efforts on the 2024 Republican presidential campaign trail.
“They’re perfect foils for one another. They both lead some of the biggest states in the country. They both have very prominent roles in their respective parties, and they both love attention,” longtime Republican strategist and communicator Ryan Williams told Fox News.
Williams, a veteran of numerous presidential and statewide campaigns, noted that “it’s in their best interests to attack one another. It gets both of their bases riled up. And it gives them a national platform to fight with each other.”
Newsom, speaking with Fox News Digital in the spin room at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library following Wednesday’s second GOP presidential nomination debate, took a jab at DeSantis as he critiqued the Florida governor’s debate performance.
“Nikki Haley laid him out,” Newsom argued. “He had a bad night.”
The two will debate each other in November.
Newsom, in an interview in June on Fox News “Hannity,” quickly welcomed a live showdown with DeSantis that was proposed by host Sean Hannity. When asked by Hannity if he’d agree to a two-hour debate with his rival from California, Newsom quickly responded “I’d make it three.”
After some cross-fire between the two camps, an agreement was recently struck to move ahead with the prime-time face-off.
Asked about the debate, DeSantis told Fox News Digital on Friday that “I think for me – he’s the one – you know Sean asked him to debate. He said yes. So then they asked me. I’m like ‘I’ll do it. Let’s do it.” And now he’s acting like ‘why do you want to debate me.’ Well I’m debating you because you asked to do it so let’s go and get it done.”
But DeSantis also emphasized “I do think it will be good, it will be instructive. These are the types of debates America really needs to have.”