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Newsom-DeSantis debate devolves into shoutfest

The highly publicized Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis v. California Gov. Gavin Newsom debate frequently devolved into a shoutfest.

Fox News moderator Sean Hannity mostly stuck to his promise to moderate and not join the debate after introducing himself as a well-known conservative.

Democrat Newsom, who recently outed himself as a friend of Hannity’s, said he couldn’t “wait for the Politifact review of the debate” to offset assertions made by Republican DeSantis. He also discounted some of the factual charts that Hannity posted during the debate including one showing tax rate comparisons between the states.

DeSantis called some of Newsom’s statements about his record “lies.” Each called the other a “bully.”

Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and Democrat California Gov. Gavin Newsom went head-to-head in a Thursday night debate moderated by Fox News Commentator Sean Hannity.

Bloomberg News

Both Newsom — who claimed again he is not running for president but has become a surrogate for the Biden-Harris campaign — and DeSantis — who has fallen behind Republican presidential candidate frontrunner Donald Trump and is neck-and-neck with Republican candidate Nikki Haley, a former governor of South Carolina and U.S. ambassador to the United Nations — defended the reason for the debate.

It boiled down to an opportunity for each to champion his party’s successes.

“Neither of us will be the candidate for our party in 2024,” Newsom said. “Why don’t you just drop out and give Nikki Haley the chance to beat Trump in the Republican primary?”

A 538-ABC News poll shows Trump with 60% support, compared to DeSantis with 12.6% and Haley with 9.5% among Republican voters.

DeSantis called Newsom a shadow candidate for president — in case the 81-year-old Biden “falls again.”

“Why don’t you just admit it? You’re running,” DeSantis asked.

The ongoing verbal slugfest between the two has created a framework for the country’s blue state-red state divisions. Comparisons of the survival rate in each state at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic has been a frequent news topic. Charts Hannity posted showed the states had experienced similar survival rates despite differing approaches.

Newsom asserted that DeSantis began the pandemic by ordering the state’s beaches closed and imposed other lockdowns similar to California’s stay-at-home order that went into effect March 20, 2020 — but that DeSantis caved to fringe groups reopening the state — and public schools in August 2020.

DeSantis countered with remarks about Newsom’s much-publicized in-person dinner at a French bistro in San Francisco, which occurred months after the California governor had ordered all restaurants in the state create outdoor dining and move to largely providing takeout orders for customers.

He also said Newsom’s kids were attending their private schools in person, while the governor caved to the teacher’s unions and kept California’s public schools closed long after it was necessary.

Inflation, the national economy and a comparison of tax rates including income tax, property tax and sales tax were also a topic during the debate.

“Fourteen million jobs created by the Biden-Harris administration, 10 times more than the last three Republican presidents combined,” Newsom said after DeSantis called him a defender of “Bidenomics.”

DeSantis said Newsom wants to take the failed policies of the Golden State national. He harped on the state’s notoriously high gas prices among other situations causing the state’s residents to flee to Florida.

Newsom said he has sued the major oil companies for what he calls the price gouging in the Golden State, which currently has gas prices close to $5 a gallon, nearly $2 a gallon more than the national average. The state has historically had the highest gas prices in the country.

California’s decline in population — to roughly 39 million people in recent years, which has caused the loss of a seat in the House of Representatives — was also a debate point.

People are fleeing California’s high-taxes, rampant crime and homelessness problems to come to Florida, DeSantis said.

Meanwhile, Florida has experienced a population boom, DeSantis said.

In 2022, the state had 22.2 million people, a 1.91% increase from 2021, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The 2020 U.S. Census recorded just over 39.5 million Californians, but as of 2023, that number fell by 1.3% to just over 39 million.

Newsom countered that California remains the most populous state in the nation with a population eight times that of some other states. He also said Florida’s booming economy is aided by the same Biden Administration policies that DeSantis has criticized.

“You just had a press conference celebrating new business in your state that grew out of President Biden’s CHIPS and Science Act,” Newsom said.

DeSantis didn’t attempt to defend his Nov. 21 tweet about grants awarded through CHIPs that has become a target of liberals.

“I am awarding more than $28 million to expand Florida’s semiconductor and chip manufacturing through the Job Growth Grant Fund,” DeSantis tweeted Nov. 21. “These awards will create high-paying jobs for Floridians in growing, high-demand fields while also supporting our state’s economic future.”

DeSantis called Newsom’s so-called California freedoms the “freedom to defecate on the street.”

Newsom countered by saying that DeSantis’ so-called business-friendly state hasn’t been kind to Disney. The Florida governor engaged in a public spat with Disneyland, after company executives publicly opposed his so-called “Don’t Say Gay,” policy, which prohibits discussion of sexual orientation to students before the fourth grade.

DeSantis replied that California schools are teaching grade school children with books on LGBTQ+ intended for older students.

“That is a blatant lie,” Newsom said. “You know we have age-appropriate materials in our schools, and we aren’t teaching sex education until middle school.”

When Newsom tried to outline the steps he has taken to counter the state’s homelessness problems — including another $300 million in grants to cities and counties announced Monday DeSantis shouted him down.

“I am just going to talk directly to the American people,” Newsom said as DeSantis talked over him.

But the California governor also frequently interrupted DeSantis, interjecting his own comments when DeSantis said something he disagreed with.

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