I wrote about the debate on Thursday in anticipation of tuning in that night. I think most of the predictions I made turned out to be true. But, I did miss the mark when I said that Gavin Newsom is a smooth talker. He may be a smooth talker in television interviews and political speeches but during a debate, he comes off much differently. Newsom can’t answer a question. Maybe it was because of the material he was working with but wow, he was not smooth at all.
Newsom didn’t answer a single question. He took each question from Hannity and tossed it aside as he launched into an attack on DeSantis or Republicans in general. He changed the subject to deliver his talking points. I read that he was prepped for the debate by Florida Democratic Party Chair Nikki Fried, which was a major mistake. Fried lost to Charlie Crist in the Democrat primary during the last election. You know, the one when DeSantis won re-election by 20 points. Newsom was not smooth. He was full of snark and snide remarks that had little to do with the questions.
Most importantly, the debate was supposed to be on the contrast between a red state and a blue state. Hence the name of the debate. However, Newsom kept trying to focus on the alleged successes of Joe Biden. There is no way he could win the debate on the merits because California is a failing state and there isn’t anything for Newsom to brag about. So, he lied his way through the debate. I’ve never seen anything like it. He lied on every answer as he went between personal attacks and state management criticism against DeSantis. He went so far as to declare DeSantis should drop out of the primary and let Nikki Haley take on Trump.
“We have one thing in common: Neither of us will be the nominee for our party in 2024,” Mr. Newsom said early in the debate, only to follow later with a left hook about Mr. Trump’s polling lead in Florida. “How’s that going for you, Ron?” he taunted. “You’re down 41 points in your own state.”
It was at that point that Hannity reminded Newsom that the debate was not about the presidential campaign but about the contrast between the two states.
As I predicted, Trump and Haley’s supporters were out after DeSantis throughout the debate. Newsom used references to both Trump and Haley to ding DeSantis and his campaign. Newsom didn’t come to debate the issues of red states versus blue states but to try to derail the DeSantis campaign. He failed miserably. DeSantis was well-prepared and laid to rest the tropes of his poor debating skills. He mopped the floor with Newsom.
Newsom concentrated on deflecting questions on his leadership and the problems in California. He can’t defend the failures of his leadership so he continued to just make up points he thought would damage DeSantis. Hannity put up graphs and bar charts that compared Florida and California with Florida leading California. Newsom would ignore the numbers on the graphics and just make up his facts. He let the mask slip a bit when he said he couldn’t wait for PolitiFact to fact-check the claims during the debate. He knew the liberal organization would support him.
The alliance of Trump voters with Newsom was interesting. My X timeline was filled with snarky and premature declarations that DeSantis didn’t win the debate. It’s been a strange week for Trump. He received an endorsement from a co-founder of a BLM chapter. Trump bragged about the endorsement. Since when do Republican candidates brag about a BLM endorsement? Thursday night, Newsom name-dropped Trump several times, as though they were on the same team.
Both candidates spoke over each other and that was frustrating. An interesting thing happened during the debate. DeSantis kept pulling out visual aides. He brought a book that had been taken out of the classroom of little kids as an example of what not banning books looks like. The books were simply taken out of the classrooms of the little ones and moved to older students. The books didn’t go anywhere.
Newsom was there to spout talking points that put Biden in a good light. Newsom was auditioning to become Biden’s national spokesman. He would probably be a good surrogate for Biden. He lies well and is unabashed in doing so.
DeSantis delivered an outstanding performance. It was his best debate performance of the primary season. He mostly stuck to facts and told his story as a successful governor. He did have his moments, too. He told the story of meeting Newsom’s father-in-law which completely threw Newsom off. Newsom’s in-laws moved from California to Florida during the pandemic when Newsom had everything and everyone in isolation. Ouch.
It set back Newsom and it was great.
DeSantis also brought the poop map of San Francisco to show the horrible conditions in the city due to the homeless problem. DeSantis noted that Newsom is the former mayor of San Francisco who promised to take care of the homeless problem and failed to do so.
Since Newsom didn’t have real facts to back up any of his claims, he just made things up as he went. He employed the use of righteous indignation when he could. Take for instance when he accused DeSantis of being disrespectful toward Kamala Harris by mispronouncing her name.
DeSantis did well for himself. It was a bold move to do the debate but the risk turned into a victory. Newsom was no match to the facts DeSantis put out to counter Newsom’s alternative reality. Will it move the needle for DeSantis in the GOP primary? I guess we’ll find out. The debate reminded the viewers that this is the kind of election we could be having.
I know one thing to be true after watching the debate – DeSantis is ready for primetime and Newsom is not.