The November 30 debate between two state governors, Democrat Gavin Newsom of California and Republican Ron DeSantis of Florida, was perhaps a perfect representation of the hopelessness of the current political and cultural landscape of America. If the purpose was to find any common ground, it was a failure. If the aim was to establish either participant as a serious presidential pick, it was perhaps an even greater waste of time. Ultimately, the event did little more than expose the ever-widening division that exists in society today.
Hosted by Fox News’ Sean Hannity, the debate descended quickly into a free-for-all, with each participant eager to get the most significant soundbite of the evening.
To his credit, DeSantis cited sources to support some of his claims that Florida was in better shape than California. Newsom did not, despite arguing precisely the opposite. In fact, the Golden State’s governor threw out some stunning statistics without any corroborating sources. Even in the face of official federal government numbers on COVID deaths, crime, taxes, and interstate immigration – all of which favored Florida – Newsom countered with numbers and claims he was either unwilling or unable to support with credible sources – or any sources at all, as it turned out.
Who’ll Be Number 47? Neither Newsom nor DeSantis
Perhaps the only thing Gov. Newsom got right during the debate was when he pointed out that neither he nor his Sunshine State counterpart would be their respective party’s 2024 presidential nominee. Though rumors swirl that Gavin Newsom might jump into the White House race at the last moment to elbow Joe Biden aside, the California governor gave off strong signals that it wasn’t going to happen. He even went as far as touting “Bidenomics” as a remarkable financial boom.
It is not unreasonable to say that, for both participants, this debate was little more than a publicity stunt. In Newsom’s case, it was a chance to pit his record as a chief executive against, arguably, one of the most celebrated Republican governors in the country. For those who were willing to assume everything he said during the debate was true – regardless of documented fact – Newsom came out the winner. DeSantis at least provided sources for his own claims and, ultimately, the numbers do not lie. Ironically, the numbers screened during the debate – almost all of which statistically favored Florida on every issue – were ignored by Newsom who, instead, cited numbers and percentages with no sources whatsoever. Imagine a debate on space travel between an astrophysicist and a Star Wars fan and one might comprehend how far apart the two contenders were.
No doubt Ron DeSantis thought this event could potentially supercharge his White House campaign. It might give him a boost, but it seems unlikely anything the Florida governor said was enough to erase the insurmountable lead the GOP frontrunner, Donald Trump, enjoys. What did Gavin Newsom hope to get out of it? That’s not easy to say. Perhaps he is maneuvering for a 2028 White House bid – or maybe he just needed an excuse to get out of California for a few days.