OPINION: This article may contain commentary which reflects the author's opinion.
As Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis continues to lose ground to former President Donald Trump in the race for the 2024 GOP presidential nomination, he’s now agreed to debate a Democrat who isn’t even running for the White House, which has left several political pundits scratching their heads.
DeSantis will debate California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) at a 90-minute forum hosted by Fox News in November, NBC News reported on Tuesday. In a statement, Fox said that the debate will air during legacy host Sean Hannity’s timeslot from an as-yet-undisclosed location in Georgia.
“I look forward to the opportunity to debate Gavin Newsom over our very different visions for the future of our country,” DeSantis wrote on the X platform.
“The contrast of California’s failures to Florida’s success demonstrates that Ron DeSantis is right: decline is merely a choice,” said DeSantis campaign spokesman Andrew Romeo.
“Whether Newsom or Biden is the Democrat nominee in ’24, they both offer the same failed and dangerous ideology for America that helped get us in this mess. We look forward to putting Ron DeSantis’ record of success up against it,” he added.
Newsom spokesperson Nathan Click said in a statement that they “want a real debate — not a circus.”
“We’ve agreed to the debate — provided there is no cheering section, no hype videos or any of the other crutches Desantis requested,” he added.
Both men agreed to a debate in August but it has taken several weeks’ worth of negotiations to settle on the ground rules.
Three days after agreeing to the debate, DeSantis explained his reasoning to a crowd in Iowa.
“One, Biden’s agenda is ultimately just trying to take the California agenda nationally anyways. … California leftism is kind of how the Democratic Party operates,” he said, adding that “Biden may not be the candidate” and Newsom, instead, may throw his hat into the ring to try and become the 2024 Democratic nominee.
Meanwhile, DeSantis’ campaign continues to falter. In New Hampshire, for instance, DeSantis is now polling behind fellow GOP presidential hopeful and former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, according to the latest New Hampshire Institute of Politics (NHIOP) poll.
Haley has 15 percent support while “DeSantis slipped to third with 11%, 18 percentage points lower than what he polled in March, and just a point ahead of former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie,” Newsmax reported.
“The boost to Haley comes at an opportune time, with the second GOP presidential primary debate set to take place Wednesday night in Simi Valley, California. Trump, who has a commanding lead in New Hampshire at 45%, will not be attending the debate,” Newsmax noted further.
In North Carolina, DeSantis isn’t faring much better. He has just 13 percent support among GOP voters to Trump’s 51 percent support, according to Florida Politics.
“Trump’s lead in North Carolina seems insurmountable. The four indictments of Trump seem to have little impact on North Carolina Primary voters and the efforts of his Republican challengers appear futile now,” said Meredith College Poll Director David McLennan.
Florida Politics noted further: “This polling is worse for DeSantis than polls released months ago.”
And in the latest Morning Consult poll, Trump continues to stretch an already commanding lead, the Tampa Free Press reported.
“Trump leads DeSantis by 46 points, the poll revealed,” said the report. “Trump’s support has jumped by nine points since December. On the other hand, over that same period, backing for DeSantis has plunged 17 points, from 30% to 13%.”
DeSantis remains the strong second choice after Trump among GOP voters, however, with 33 percent support, followed by 24 percent for entrepreneur and fellow GOP presidential hopeful Vivek Ramaswamy.
“Among the 10 declared Republican candidates, only former Vice President Mike Pence (42%) and former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (51%) have higher unfavorable scores than DeSantis, according to the Morning Consult poll,” TFP reported.