Ron DeSantis and Gavin Newsom debate tonight: Florida and California governors go head-to-head on Fox News at 9pm

After months of increasingly bitter sparring, Ron DeSantis and Gavin Newsom will finally meet in a highly anticipated one-on-one debate Thursday night at 9 p.m.

Each governor will make his case for why Florida or California are better governed in the showdown between red states and blue states on Fox News.

This confrontation could be a harbinger of the future presidential race and give viewers a chance to see alternatives to Donald Trump and Joe Biden in action.

DeSantis is currently in the 2024 GOP presidential race, consistently ranking second in polls but trailing far behind Trump.

He has already competed in three Republican primary presidential debates against his GOP rivals without Trump.

“The next debate will be the biggest yet,” DeSantis campaign manager James Utmyer said in a statement provided to regarding the one-on-one conversation with Newsom.

Meanwhile, Newsom spokesman Nathan Click said the debate is already rigged in DeSantis’ favor.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis

California Governor Gavin Newsom

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (left) and California Gov. Gavin Newsom (right) will go head-to-head in a highly anticipated debate over which of their states—and governing styles—is better

“We are under no illusions – this is a 2-on-1 match with the referees on standby for the home team,” Click told “But Governor Newsom has long believed that Democrats must go on the offensive in enemy territory, and that is exactly what he intends to do.”

Here, looks at the upcoming debate and what you need to know ahead of the match.


Florida Gov. DeSantis doesn’t have to travel far for the debate, which is taking place in Alpharetta, Georgia, about 300 miles from Florida’s capital Tallahassee.

Meanwhile, California Gov. Newsom faces a much longer journey—roughly 2,500 miles—to get to the debate site.

Fox News will host and broadcast the 90-minute debate live Thursday night at 9 p.m.

Longtime Fox host Sean Hannity will moderate.

This development came to fruition after Hannity set terms between the two governors, with both of them publicly expressing a willingness to go toe-to-toe.

“As Democrats ramp up their efforts to replace the historically unpopular and failed Joe Biden as their nominee, Ron DeSantis’s showdown with Gavin Newsom becomes even more timely,” Utmyer said in a statement.

“Newsom’s presidency will accelerate America’s decline, and November 30th will be the first chance to show a national audience how dangerous his radical ideology will be for the country.”

“Ron DeSantis will take this responsibility seriously and looks forward to sharing the stark contrast between his vision for revitalizing our nation and Newsom’s plan to fail.”

Newsom insists he has no ambitions to run for president this year, but DeSantis is among those suggesting he could run in 2024 if Biden, 81, is for some reason no longer around participate in the race.

Click told that viewers should “expect him to defend the President and take the opportunity to contrast the President’s pro-middle-class record with the enthusiasm of DeSantis (sic) and the rest of the GOP to take away Americans’ Freedoms.”

“Look, (Newsom) is running a shadow campaign, even people in his own party are saying that,” DeSantis said in an interview this month. “Many Democrats want to unseat Biden.”

He added: “But I think it’s important that Republican voters feel like we might not be running against Biden.”

Fox News host Sean Hannity helped host the debate and will serve as the sole moderator Thursday night.

Fox News host Sean Hannity helped host the debate and will serve as the sole moderator Thursday night.

Their match will be officiated by Sean Hannity, Fox News Channel’s longest-serving primetime host. He frequently interviewed DeSantis in an effort to unseat Trump, and his few conversations with Newsom were well-reviewed and led to good relations between the two.

Hannity told in an exclusive interview on Tuesday how he personally negotiated the terms of the upcoming debate and managed to get them together in the same room.

The Fox News host said he intervened to facilitate exchanges between the governors and said those conversations included at least one of the men who did not request an audience with the studio.

“I personally negotiated or navigated, I don’t know what you call it,” Hannity said. “I took a crazy stand and dealt with it personally. I thought it was too important.


Over the past year, DeSantis and Newsom have publicly expressed their dissatisfaction with each other’s policies, intensifying the debate over whether Florida or California is the “better” state.

DeSantis frequently touts the exodus of Californians moving to Florida in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody will highlight the phenomenon at a press conference this afternoon to hear from California “refugees” who fled the Golden State for the Sunshine State.

From July 2019 to July 2022, 1,044,494 Californians moved to other states. Meanwhile, 737,433 people moved to Florida from other states.

The standard of living of state residents has also declined due to in- and out-migration.

California lost $55.7 billion in adjusted gross income between 2019 and 2021 due to migration, while Florida gained $80.6 billion, according to the latest IRS data.

Newsom criticized DeSantis’ deeply conservative policies, particularly on illegal immigration, education and LGBTQ issues.

Fox News has dubbed the head-to-head between the governors the “Great Red State vs. Blue State Debate” – and it comes as Newsom and DeSantis are at each other’s throats over their state’s politics.

In particular, the two will argue over their diametrically opposed approaches to issues such as COVID-19 lockdowns, crime, immigration, taxes, climate and school choice.

Both men have lofty ambitions that reach as far as the White House.

Newsom initially challenged DeSantis to a debate in September 2022. At the time, DeSantis had not yet entered the 2024 Republican presidential primary.

In a June interview with Hannity, liberal Newsom again said he would debate with conservative DeSantis, with the Fox host serving as moderator. DeSantis formally agreed in August, telling Hannity: “I’m ready. Let’s do that. Just tell me when and where.

“We were shocked when he agreed,” Click told

“Newsom has been challenging DeSantis (sic) to a debate for months, and the fact that he finally agreed as his campaign was collapsing shows how bad DeSantis (sic) needs to distract attention from the disaster. related to his candidacy,” he added.

The debate will have no audience, and even if the two men’s respective staffers were in the room during the telecast, they would not be able to talk to them even during commercial breaks, Hannity said.

Other than Fox, no other media outlets are allowed access to the room where the two men will come face to face.

– I know them both. So I just felt like I needed to put everything together in a way that would suit both governors,” Hannity told

“Maybe the climb is harder than I initially thought.”

He added: “But I promised everyone that I would keep the behind-the-scenes negotiations secret, and I will keep my word.”

A September poll by found that 46% of Americans would prefer to live in Florida, and 40% would prefer to live in California.  While Republicans overwhelmingly favored Florida and Democrats overwhelmingly favored California, independents tilted their vote in favor of the Sunshine State when asked where they would prefer to live.

A September poll by found that 46% of Americans would prefer to live in Florida, and 40% would prefer to live in California. While Republicans overwhelmingly favored Florida and Democrats overwhelmingly favored California, independents tilted their vote in favor of the Sunshine State when asked where they would prefer to live.


While California has become increasingly liberal since Newsom became governor in 2019, Florida has swung the other way since DeSantis took office at the same time.

Governors have very different leadership styles and almost always take opposing positions on issues ranging from the economy to personal freedoms.

Although California spends significantly more on K-12 education—about 45 percent more—their test scores are much lower than Florida’s.

In 2022, only 30 percent of California fourth graders scored proficient in math, compared to 41 percent in Florida.

Many point to long COVID-19 shutdowns as a reason for California’s knowledge loss.

DeSantis is also known for his “anti-woke” policies in schools and his push to gain more parental approval for their children’s education.

His Parental Rights in Education Act was called a “don’t say gay” bill by liberal and progressive critics because it discouraged school education about sexual orientation and gender identity.

Newsom and other Democrats say DeSantis’ policies are anti-LGBTQ.


Florida, in particular, has been one of the leaders in reopening schools and returning children to classrooms following the pandemic.

Moreover, employment only increased in Florida and decreased in California.

Since January 2019, Florida has employed 1,031,030 more people, while California’s employment has fallen by 85,438.

This change was also likely driven by long-term lockdowns in California and short-term lockdowns in Florida.

Newsom kept the state closed for so long that businesses moved their operations and workers moved their families to places where they could not only continue to work, but also had a lower tax burden and cost of living.

Florida, the third largest state by population, has 22.2 million people and growing, while California, the largest state by population, has 39 million people and is declining.

However, California has seen a massive increase in homelessness over the past few years, with 171,521 people living on the streets compared to 25,959 in Florida.

Newsom supported California’s Proposition 47, which decriminalizes drug use and makes it more difficult to treat drug addicts living on the streets.

Shocking and graphic images have emerged of homeless people taking drugs on the streets of some of California’s largest cities, such as San Francisco and Los Angeles.