OAN’s Brooke Mallory
1:13 PM – Friday, December 1, 2023
Fox News‘ promoted “The Great Red vs. Blue State Debate” between Florida Republican Governor Ron DeSantis and California Democrat Governor Gavin Newsom presented back-and-forth crosstalk and a wide range of insults last night, lasting almost two hours.
The event, which moderator Sean Hannity had billed as a debate between two opposing political ideologies that would “help resolve the division in our divided nation,” turned into more of a verbal brawl, with both DeSantis (R-Fla.) and Newsom (D-Calif.) accusing the other of being a bully at different points.
“What are we actually doing here?” Newsom asked early on in the night. Hannity, who begged to not be a “hall monitor,” repeatedly tried to cut through the shouting while urging both participants to let the other one speak and finish their point.
Newsom stated that he was participating in the discussion in order to “tell the truth about the Biden-Harris record and also compare and contrast Ron DeSantis’ record.”
The two governors also had predictable responses when asked what grade they would give Biden: F for “fail” from DeSantis and “A” from Newsom.
*Here are five pivotal moments from the combative and seemingly disorganized showdown*
Present and Future Presidential Aspirations:
It’s no accident that the format of the head-to-head match, which featured DeSantis and Newsom standing at lecterns in a television studio in Alpharetta, Georgia, without a live audience, was similar to a presidential debate, highlighting the stakes for the two men.
One is currently running for the nation’s most powerful office, while the other is widely considered a potential future contender.
The event had much more immediate ramifications for DeSantis, who was hoping a strong showing would turn around his presidential campaign, which is currently falling behind former President Donald Trump. With less than two months until the first race in Iowa, DeSantis, who was once a major contender for the Republican nomination, has dramatically declined in 2024 presidential polls.
As a result, he now faces the possibility of finishing third behind former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley (R-S.C).
In August, when DeSantis agreed to debate Newsom—who is not even running in the presidential race—many political analysts were taken aback. DeSantis, however, sought to convince Republican voters that he is the most qualified opponent of Democrat President Joe Biden in the general election since he was deprived of the chance to directly confront Trump, who has declined to take part in the GOP primary debates.
“What Biden would do, the people around him, they would look to California for the model to go forward in the next four years. That would accelerate the decline of this country,” DeSantis said. “The failures need to be left in the dustbin of history.”
In place of being a leading spokesperson for Biden’s re-election, Newsom has consistently denied having any desire to run for president.
Nonetheless, the governor’s progressively nationalistic outlook and his portrayal of himself as an overall Democrat spokesman bear all the marks of a politician vying for higher office. This year, he also started a “red-state tour” to support Democrats in conservative areas and to propose a harsher gun control constitutional amendment.
The Hannity debate offered Newsom another chance to introduce himself to people who may not have been aware of his work and gubernatorial campaign in California. This was especially important because it allowed him to reposition himself in the eyes of conservative and moderate Fox News viewers, who may be key to winning swing states in a hypothetical future presidential election.
“I don’t know how many times I can say it,” Newsom told Hannity. “Joe Biden will be our nominee in a matter of weeks.” Newsom consistently debunked any kind of notion that he was conducting a “shadow campaign” for the Democrat nomination.
At one point, a displayed graphic from Fox News showed that California has a violent crime rate that is almost twice as high as Florida’s and higher than the national average. These percentages were based on FBI data that was voluntarily gathered from regional law enforcement organizations.
“How do you explain that when safety and security, I would argue, is a prerequisite for the pursuit of happiness?” Hannity asked Newsom.
Newsom then attempted to turn the question back on DeSantis, pointing out that Florida has significantly higher rates of gun violence and murder than California, which has much tighter gun control legislation.
“Maybe spend a little more time back in your home state and address the murder and gun violence in your own backyard,” Newsom said in a condescending tone.
DeSantis previously expressed that “public safety has collapsed” in California. This summer, he filmed a campaign ad in San Francisco’s Tenderloin district, where he bemoaned the high rate of drug use and homelessness in the area.
“In a lot of these places in California, everything’s under lock and key because they’ve basically legalized retail theft,” he said. “They have chosen in California to put the interests of the criminals over public safety.”
Personal Insults & COVID-19:
It did not take long for the conversation to get personal, and occasionally it was downright vicious. Early on, DeSantis highlighted that Newsom’s own in-laws had moved to Florida. Later, DeSantis was described as a man who is “weak, pathetic, and small” by Newsom.
However, nothing appeared to exacerbate the tension between the two governors more than the COVID-19 pandemic, which was mentioned several times throughout the live debate.
DeSantis condemned California for enforcing stringent lockdowns that inhibited students from attending class and many others from visiting their elderly relatives in the hospital in “an attempt to contain the virus,” and he stood by his choice to allow businesses and schools in Florida to reopen much earlier.
He also said that while Newsom was eating dinner at the French Laundry restaurant, the California governor “did huge damage to people” by closing down the economy and that he should apologize for keeping students out of schools while his own children went back to their private school.
“The only person who should apologize is Ron DeSantis for the tens of thousands of lives that died unnecessarily because he played to the fringe of his party,” Newsom said in response.
When Newsom highlighted that DeSantis had threatened to fine the Special Olympics $27.5 million last year unless they dropped their COVID-19 vaccine mandate, the discussion turned into yet another argument.
“They were discriminating against the athletes,” DeSantis said. “You’re a liberal elite. You wanted them to be ostracized.”
“You attack vulnerable communities,” Newsom replied back. “You’re nothing but a bully. I understand that intimidating and humiliating people, that’s your calling card.”
Throughout the discussion, Newsom took great pleasure in badgering DeSantis about his diminishing support in the presidential contest. Towards the conclusion, Newsom even urged DeSantis to withdraw so that Haley would have a better opportunity to stop Trump.
During a segment on abortion, which some Republican contenders have made a point of downplaying on the campaign trail, Democrats believe that the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to eliminate the constitutional right to an abortion last year would make abortion a major issue in the 2024 presidential race.
A Florida television advertisement that highlighted a law that DeSantis had implemented this year, which would outlaw abortions beyond six weeks, was also run by Newsom the week before the debate to “add more fuel to the fire.”
“Will you or will you not support a national ban if it lands on your desk?” Newsom asked. However, DeSantis seemed to avoid the question. Newsom then turned straight to the camera to speak to the viewers watching at home.
“He will sign that extreme six-week national ban,” Newsom asserted. “The American people should know that.”
San Francisco Poop Watcher:
Towards the end of the discussion, DeSantis pulled out a paper, which he claimed came from a user-generated app that tracks human feces discovered on San Francisco streets.
Regarding the escalating homelessness problem in California, which he said had become so terrible that “human feces is now a fact of life” for locals, it was meant to be his knockout blow against Newsom. DeSantis attributed the issue to Democrats’ lazy, slacker mindset.
“You have the freedom to defecate in public in California,” DeSantis said. “You have the freedom to pitch a tent on Sunset Boulevard. You have the freedom to create a homeless encampment under a freeway and even light it on fire.”
“They’re not the freedoms our founding fathers envisioned,” he added, “but they have contributed to the destruction of the quality of life in California.”
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