DeSantis pummeled Newsom with red-vs-blue facts but will it help him win GOP nomination?

DeSantis pummeled Newsom with red-vs-blue facts but will it help him win GOP nomination?

DeSantis pummeled Newsom with red-vs-blue facts but will it help him win GOP nomination?

Debate settings often leave winners and losers to the eyes of the beholders but most media accounts concluded Florida's governor Ron DeSantis delivered a barrage of facts in his one-on-one with California's governor, Gavin Newsom.

DeSantis long ago announced his candidacy for the GOP nomination, a race in which he and others still in the race are currently trailing far behind non-debating frontrunner Donald Trump.

DeSantis 'hammered' Newsom, exposed party differences

Chad Groening, AFN.net

A conservative columnist who watched the DeSantis-Newsom debate says the Florida governor walloped the Democrat with truth and facts.

The debate between two big-state governors from opposite ends of the political spectrum was filled with personal insults but it also highlighted political philosophies and policy differences.

Robert Knight, a columnist for The Washington Times, says Gov. Newsom was forced to defend “all sorts of indefensible statistics,” such as why people are leaving his state in record numbers.

Robert Knight Knight

Newsom tried to pretend people are leaving Florida for California, Knight points out, a lie that didn’t work on the debate stage with DeSantis.

“Gov. DeSantis hammered him with the bad Biden policies every one of which Gov. Newsom defended, including the border,” Knight tells AFN.

What was most important for the public to see, Knight adds, was Gov. DeSantis exposed what matters to Democrats and Republicans, and how far apart the two political parties really are.

Many political observers, including DeSantis, believe Newsom is running a “shadow campaign” for the Democratic nomination, positioning himself to be ready and available should something happen to end President Joe Biden’s reelection bid. That possibility made the Thursday night debate important for the California's governor, too, and for Democrat voters who are looking for a replacement for Biden. 

Fox News aired the debate, moderated by Fox host Sean Hannity, and it was billed as an opportunity for Americans to see achievements of a Democrat-led state next to those of a Republican-led state.

That it was.

DeSantis promoted his own record in Florida while pounding away at the number of people moving out of California, many of them to Florida – including Newsom’s own father-in-law.

California currently has an unemployment rate almost five points higher than Florida’s. Taxes taint the business climate as California ranks 48th in the Tax Foundation’s state business index rating.

In the raucous debate, the chin-whopping haymaker for DeSantis may have been when he held up the San Francisco “poop map,” an app designed to help pedestrians avoid human feces on city sidewalks.

DeSantis campaign: He gave 'master class' 

Carly Atchison, the national spokesperson for the DeSantis campaign, told American Family Radio Friday morning her boss had delivered a "master class" on how to defeat the Left with facts. 

"This is something that Ron DeSantis has been doing his entire time he's been involved in politics," Atchison said, "but it was great to get in front of a national audience last night and showcase, you know, why he's been able to be so successful as a governor." 

At one point DeSantis called Newsom the “lockdown governor,” criticizing the California governor's handling of the pandemic.

Newsom responded by saying DeSantis had shifting positions during COVID pandemic; that he passed an emergency declaration before California did; and that DeSantis listened to the advice for infectious diseases head Anthony Fauci and had “promoted vaccines.”

Those accusations from Newsom were meant to minimize the executive decisions made in Florida and California during the pandemic, but it is also true Gov. DeSantis was nicknamed "Governor Death-Santis" by his liberal critics. He was labeled that when DeSantis got out front of all 50 governors and loosed restrictions in The Sunshine State despite fears he was endangering lives. 

Sharp differences on abortion were highlighted with Newsom attacking the six-week ban DeSantis signed into law in Florida.

DeSantis told Hannity he signed the law because he believes in “a culture of life.”

DeSantis defended Florida laws that prohibit sexually-explicit books in schools as he showed images from the book “Genderqueer.”

DeSantis mocks California, the 'freedom state' 

DeSantis also went on the offensive about the many “freedoms” allowed in California.

“Gavin Newsom at one point tried to say that California was the ‘freedom state,’" DeSantis said. "I just kind of laughed, like, you're locking people down, you're doing all this stuff. Then, I thought about it and California does have freedoms that other states don't.”

“You have the freedom to defecate in public in California,” he added. "You have the freedom to pitch a tent on Sunset Boulevard. You have the freedom to create a homeless encampment under a freeway and light it on fire. You have the freedom to have an open-air drug market. You have the freedom that, if you're an illegal alien, to get all these taxpayer benefits.”

On the AFR program, Atchison told show host Jenna Ellis the state of Florida has not always been a reliably red state. 

"This was a purple state, reliably purple state," she said, "that Ron DeSantis made into a solidly red state."

The reason is moved from purple to red was Florida voters agreed with DeSantis and his conservative agenda that promised to improve their lives. 

"Ron DeSantis made that case last night for why the conservative agenda, the Florida model, is the way forward," she insisted. 

Some, including CNN, were critical of Newsom for focusing too much on Biden.

“He did a better job of going to bat for Joe Biden than Joe Biden does,” Democratic strategist Robin Biro told Ellis. “I think he could have been more prepared. I believe he walked in there with some swagger last night and kind of let his guard down. I think that he thought that being the seasoned politician that he is, that maybe he didn't need to do as much debate prep. Gov. DeSantis kept him on his toes.”

Biro is in the camp that believes a Democratic switcheroo from Biden to Newsom is quite possible.

“I do think that in some respects, he's running a shadow campaign as Ron DeSantis has alleged, just in case something happens, God forbid, to Joe Biden, our president," Biro speculated. "I think that he's setting himself up either to run in 2024 or 2028."

At this stage of the 2024 race party nominations – whether Biden stays in and whether DeSantis or any Republican can overtake Trump – are front and center in discussions.

As far as Newsom's overall performance, Biro said he did a "respectable job" during the debate. 

Trump and 'preposterous polls' 

So did DeSantis, who trails Trump by more than 40 points in an average of GOP polls, help himself by debating an unannounced opponent?

“These polls that have Trump so far ahead, these preposterous polls, half of that support in those polls is looking for an exit ramp," Your Voice America host Bill Mitchell told Ellis.

Mitchell, who supports DeSantis, insisted Trump's "committed core support" is only about 25% which is why DeSantis' debate performance was important for GOP voters to watch and consider.  

Ari Fleischer, the White House press secretary on 9-11 under George W. Bush, isn’t so sure there’s a logjam on those exit ramps.

“I don’t think [DeSantis] closed the gap with Donald Trump tonight,” Fleischer told Hannity after the debate. “It was a nice night for him. He did well, and he had the facts on his side, but when you look at the purpose of him being there, which is to win a presidential race, I just don’t think he closed the gap.”