Fox News announced on Monday that it was hosting a debate in late November between Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida and Gov. Gavin Newsom of California — a highly unusual clash between two of the nation’s best known political leaders who are not running for the same office.
Fox News — calling it a “a red vs. blue state debate” — said the 90-minute event featuring the Republican governor of Florida and the Democratic governor of California will be held in Georgia and will air on Nov. 30 on Sean Hannity’s show. Mr. Newsom and Mr. DeSantis had both agreed to have Mr. Hannity moderate the debate.
“I’m looking forward to providing viewers with an informative debate about the everyday issues and governing philosophies that impact the lives of every American,” Mr. Hannity said in a statement.
Mr. Newsom had challenged Mr. DeSantis to a debate for months, and Mr. DeSantis accepted that invitation in August.
“I’m game. Let’s get it done. Just tell me when and where,” Mr. DeSantis said on Mr. Hannity’s show.
The decision by Mr. DeSantis, who is running for president, to debate a politician who isn’t also making a bid for the White House is nearly without precedent. It is almost certain to be read as a sign of how far behind former President Donald J. Trump he has fallen in the Republican presidential primary, and the lengths he needs to go to shake up the dynamics in that race after months of losing ground.
The announcement came as Mr. Newsom was on a campaign call for President Biden as a Democratic surrogate ahead of this week’s Republican primary debate in California.
Mr. Newsom has repeatedly insisted he is not running for president in 2024, and his full-throated embrace of Mr. Biden has earned him some allies in the White House. He traveled to Chicago earlier this month to raise money for the president’s campaign at a convention preview for donors.
Yet Mr. Newsom is widely seen as a potential candidate if, for some unforeseen and unlikely reason, Mr. Biden should decide not to run, and he is also viewed as a leading contender in a Democratic primary in 2028.
The Newsom and DeSantis teams have haggled behind the scenes about the logistics through memos and with Mr. Hannity. Mr. Newsom demanded, for instance, that there be no live audience in a debate proposal sent in late July. The DeSantis team responded in early August by looking for a chance to air a two-minute video at the start of the debate, as well as for the debate to be held before a live audience, which the Newsom team dismissed as a “cheering section.”
The Fox News announcement did not say whether there would be an audience.
A Newsom spokesman suggested the debate could still fall apart. “We’ve agreed to the debate — provided there is no cheering section, no hype videos or any of the other crutches DeSantis requested,” said the spokesman, Nathan Click. “We want a real debate — not a circus.”
Andrew Romeo, a spokesman for Mr. DeSantis, welcomed the event — and raised the prospect that Mr. Newsom could wind up the Democratic nominee.
“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,” Mr. Romeo said. “We look forward to putting Ron DeSantis’ record of success up against it.”
Mr. DeSantis is increasing his visibility in facing off against others while Mr. Trump has significantly curtailed his own. The former president is skipping the second Republican primary debate on Wednesday at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library. He also skipped the first debate in August.
Mr. Trump has told advisers he sees no urgency in taking part in any of the debates, according to a person familiar with his remarks.