OAKLAND — Fox News host Sean Hannity is heading to Malibu this week for GOP gubernatorial candidate Caitlyn Jenner’s first big TV appearance since she announced last month she will run in the California recall.
Sources close to the campaign told POLITICO on Monday morning that Hannity’s event with Jenner was being planned as a “town hall-style” event before a live audience in the Southern California city. But a Fox News spokesperson said late Monday that the network plans for a one-on-one, on-stage interview only between Hannity and Jenner and that the format will not allow for questions from the audience.
The event is closed to the media and public, though some GOP faithfuls in California have been getting invites to the session. The event will broadcast at 6 p.m. Pacific Time on Wednesday, the time slot for Hannity’s regular nightly show.
GOP strategist Tim Rosales said Jenner’s sit-down with Hannity, one of the most influential figures on the right, hands her an invaluable opportunity to reach a loyal GOP audience with her message for the first time. But that comes with pressure “to define herself to Republican voters right in California,” he said.
While Jenner will likely focus on Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom, she must also compete with three more experienced Republican recall candidates so far, including former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer, businessman John Cox and former Rep. Doug Ose.
The California recall format will ask voters two questions: first, do they want to recall Newsom; and second, whom do they want to replace him with should the recall succeed. The winner could emerge with a relatively small plurality of votes if enough candidates split up support — and if voters want to oust the Democratic governor.
“The fact is, with this many candidates out there, it could be 20 percent or 25 percent of the vote that actually is the deciding factor” to beat Newsom, Rosales said. “She has to define herself within some kind of base — and I think this is her opportunity to do that.”
Yet, one of the biggest challenges for Jenner — and for all of the Republican candidates — is that Newsom’s poll numbers are ticking up as the state recovers from the Covid-19 pandemic, Rosales said.
While Hannity will likely amplify criticisms of the Democratic governor, Jenner on Wednesday will have to fill in the blanks when it comes to her positions on governing the world’s fifth largest economy.