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‘What a joke’: Gavin Newsom's team slams Ron DeSantis’ debate proposal

After the Florida governor agreed to debate the California governor this week, DeSantis' team offered its own rules for the debate, which differed from what Newsom had proposed.
Gov. Ron DeSantis and Gov. Gavin Newsom.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and California Gov. Gavin Newsom.AP

It looks like the possibility of a debate between California's Gavin Newsom and Florida's Ron DeSantis — two governors on the opposite ends of the political spectrum — may still be a way off.

Newsom's team Saturday slammed DeSantis' proposed rules for their debate on Fox News.

“What a joke," Newsom spokesman Nathan Click said in a statement in response to the proposal that DeSantis' team sent Fox News host Sean Hannity on Friday.

"Desantis’ counterproposal is littered with crutches to hide his insecurity and ineptitude — swapping opening statements with a hype video, cutting down the time he needs to be on stage, adding cheat notes and a cheering section," Click said. "Ron should be able to stand on his own two feet. It’s no wonder Trump is kicking his ass.”

DeSantis' team did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

DeSantis, who is running for the GOP presidential nomination, told Hannity on Wednesday that he would be willing to debate Newsom, a Democrat with whom he has frequently clashed over issues like guns, abortion, education and immigration.

“Absolutely. I’m game. Let’s get it done. Just tell me when and where. We’ll do it,” DeSantis said, agreeing to the debate idea that initially came about in June, when Hannity asked Newsom whether he'd debate DeSantis.

Newsom sent a formal debate offer letter to Hannity last month that included rules such as that the debate would be moderated by Hannity, be broadcast live and be 90 minutes in length and that both governors wouldn’t use notes. Newsom also proposed Nevada, Georgia and North Carolina as potential locations.

In a letter to Hannity dated Friday, DeSantis' team offered its own rules, which diverged from some proposed by Newsom. Some of the differences:

  • DeSantis suggested four dates from Sept. 19 to Nov. 8, while Newsom proposed two dates in November.
  • DeSantis wanted a live audience with a 50-50 split, while Newsom said "no live audience."
  • DeSantis doesn’t want opening remarks, while Newsom would like both participants to get four minutes.
  • DeSantis proposed that they each submit a 2-minute-long video that must be approved by Fox News before it is played at the top of the debate.

Hannity framed the event Wednesday as a “policy-based debate” between the heads of a red state and a blue state, but DeSantis has said the debate will be far more than that.

“This is the debate for the future of our country," he told Hannity.