Ron DeSantis is campaigning against
- a) Donald J. Trump
- b) the entire field of GOP presidential hopefuls
- c) President Joseph R. Biden
- d) an incumbent governor of a state other than his own
If you answered (d), you win! Yes, as the "small, pathetic man" Gavin Newsom described him, Ron DeSantis is running against the California governor, and rather feebly. Florida governor DeSantis has been busing migrants from Texas to Sacramento and in response Newsom has been sharply criticizing DeSantis. Therefore
At Thursday’s signing of the state budget in Fort Pierce, Florida, Mr DeSantis was asked about Mr Newsom telling Sean Hannity that he would debate the Florida governor in an event moderated by the Fox News host.
While he didn’t answer the question directly, Governor DeSantis said of Governor Newsom to reporters: “He has a real serious fixation on the state of Florida, I think it’s just bizarre that he does that. What I would tell him is — you know what, stop pussyfooting around. Are you going to throw your hat into the ring and challenge Joe [Biden]?”
Those are bold words from a guy who is ignoring the problems of his own state in order to address the problems of another state, Texas. And
Further laying into Mr Newsom, the Florida governor said his California counterpart is facing “huge problems” in his state and has “overseen a massive exodus” due to it being “mismanaged and ill-governed”.
Are you going to get in and do it, or are you going to sit on the sidelines and chirp?” he added, goading Mr Newsom. “So why don’t you throw your hat into the ring, and then we’ll go ahead and talk about what’s happening.”
That's safe; also, feeble. DeSantis wants to goad the California governor into trying to topple Joe Biden's bid to be re-nominated, which- at least at this stage- would be extremely divisive and very likely futile. It would endanger Newsom's standing in the Democratic Party because not only would it be nearly doomed to failure but, were Biden to be defeated in the general election, the governor probably would be blamed for putting the Republican into the White House.
Instead, DeSantis could accept Newsom's offer- and try to set the terms of debate himself. Newsom issued the challenge while interviewed by Hannity,. Therefore, the Florida governor might recommend Hannity himself as the moderator with the faceoff taking place in Iowa, the first state to hold a primary or caucus and GOP-dominated state. The audience might tilt Republican, which certainly didn't hurt Donald Trump in his townhall hosted by CNN.
DeSantis had little to lose. If Republican primary voters want an unceasingly negative, hatred-driven, Ivy-League educated "populist," they can support Donald Trump- which they already do. If DeSantis waits for a fight between Chris Christie and Trump to throw a wrench into the latter's glide path to the nomination, he might find Tim Scott or another foe being the prime beneficiary.
Alternatively, the Florida governor could be a little bold and accept Newsom's invitation. At the worst, he would be humiliated in debate and sink a candidacy which already is flailing. However, he could prepare a few applause lines which would be good for a campaign ad and in the process, impress Republican voters by displaying a penchant for combat.
Ron DeSantis evidently has chosen the safer route to avoid confrontation. That's because he is a small, pathetic man.