Since last September, Gavin Newsom, the ambitious, proudly liberal governor of California, has been tauntingly challenging Ron DeSantis, the ambitious, proudly conservative governor of Florida, to a debate. He would even agree, he said, to let the right-wing Fox News host Sean Hannity moderate.
On Wednesday, Mr. DeSantis accepted.
“You heard Gavin make the offer,” Mr. Hannity said on his show. “Your answer is?”
“Absolutely,” a smiling Mr. DeSantis replied. “I’m game. Let’s get it done. Just tell me when and where.”
In a letter last week, Mr. Newsom had outlined his proposed terms: a date of Nov. 8 or 10; a location in Georgia, Nevada or North Carolina; and a focus “on the impact of representation at the state level.”
Nathan Click, a spokesman for Mr. Newsom, said in a statement late Wednesday: “November 8th or 10th. DeSantis should put up or shut up. Anything else is just games.”
Such an event would, perhaps, be a mutually agreeable proposition for two men eager for as much attention as they can get.
Mr. Newsom has made no secret of the fact that he is interested in running for president, perhaps as soon as 2028. And Mr. DeSantis’s own presidential campaign is being drowned out by the inescapable presence of former President Donald J. Trump, who led him by more than 35 percentage points in a recent New York Times/Siena College poll on the Republican primary, and whose three criminal indictments have dominated the news for months.
Both Mr. DeSantis and Mr. Newsom have sought to present themselves as the platonic ideal of a governor of their party, and their state as a haven.
Mr. DeSantis has moved Florida sharply to the right, signing laws that ban abortion after six weeks and restrict transgender rights, and advertising his rejection of public health measures during the pandemic. Mr. Newsom has signed extensive climate measures, sought to make California a “sanctuary” for abortion access for people from out of state and recently called for a constitutional amendment to enact gun regulations.
Last year, Mr. Newsom ran ads in Florida telling voters there, “Freedom is under attack in your state.” In June, Mr. DeSantis accused Mr. Newsom of having a “fixation” on Florida and dared him to announce a primary challenge to President Biden.
From the perspective of the current presidential race, though, Mr. Newsom is not exactly the sparring partner Mr. DeSantis would prefer. The man he actually needs to defeat to have a chance of becoming president — Mr. Trump — is threatening to skip the Republican debate this month.
Shane Goldmacher contributed reporting.