California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s decision to debate Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) has reportedly caused concern within the White House.
Some of President Joe Biden’s key political advisers view the planned debate, to be moderated by Sean Hannity, as a distraction from the Biden-Harris campaign, according to a report from the Daily Mail.
Newsom, who endorsed Biden for president earlier this year, has repeatedly stated that he has no intentions of running for the presidency this election cycle.
There are concerns within Biden’s camp, however, that the debate could inadvertently boost DeSantis, whom Biden campaign officials initially perceived as more of a threat to the incumbent’s reelection than Donald Trump.
“It’s disrespectful,” said an adviser to Vice President Kamala Harris whom NBC cited without naming. “Joe Biden is running with Kamala Harris. That’s the Democratic ticket.”
Another Biden adviser voiced concerns about the optics of the debate, especially in light of recent disagreements between Harris and DeSantis.
“[It could look] like he tried to defend her because she couldn’t defend herself, or that he was being thirsty for attention or to get in the fight,” the adviser said, according to the Mail report.
Despite these concerns, some within the Biden administration see potential benefits from the debate.
They believe that Newsom, who is considered one of Biden’s top campaign surrogates, could potentially weaken DeSantis’ position with a strong performance.
“What he’s doing here is appropriate for a surrogate,” said one Biden adviser who spoke with NBC. The unnamed adviser hailed Newsom for taking on DeSantis and sharing his donor list.
Kevin Munoz, a spokesman for Biden’s campaign, echoed this sentiment, stating, “Governor Newsom is a strong partner and surrogate for the Biden-Harris campaign.”
The debate between the two governors is expected to cover a range of policy differences if it actually occurs.
Topics open for debate include immigration, crime and education. The debate was first proposed during a Hannity interview with Newsom, and DeSantis later accepted the challenge on social media.
“Absolutely. I’m game. Let’s get it done. Just tell me when and where,” said DeSantis. “We’ll do it.”
Newsom’s challenge to DeSantis followed months of high-profile sparring between the East Coast governor and the West Coast governor. Their political differences appear as vast as the country that separates them.