Deep divide on display in DeSantis-Newsom debate: ANALYSIS

They showed starkly different Republican and Democratic visions of leadership.

December 1, 2023, 8:54 AM

In a debate staged to showcase the wide gulf between Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and Democratic California Gov. Gavin Newsom, viewers got an earful of bickering and taunts for more than 90 minutes.

It was a real sideshow to the ongoing Republican primary with a moderator -- Fox host Sean Hannity -- who is hardly a neutral broker.

The pair put on full display the deep divide between Republicans and Democratic visions of leadership on a host of hot-button issues, particularly those that stoke cultural divisions.

PHOTO: Journalists watch Florida Governor and Republican presidential candidate Ron DeSantis debate California Governor Gavin Newsom on a screen in the media room, in Alpharetta, Nov. 30, 2023.
Journalists watch Florida Governor and Republican presidential candidate Ron DeSantis debate California Governor Gavin Newsom on a screen in the media room, in Alpharetta, Nov. 30, 2023.
Elijah Nouvelage/Reuters

For Newsom, it was a chance to display staunch support for both President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, which included dispelling speculation that he has plans to run for president (this cycle, at least).

"The one thing we have in common is neither of us will be our party's nominee in 2024," said Newsom.

PHOTO: Reporters watch from an off-site hotel as Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and California Gov. Gavin Newsom debate, Nov .30, 2023.
Reporters watch from an off-site hotel as Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and California Gov. Gavin Newsom debate, Nov .30, 2023.
Robin Rayne/ZUMAPRESS.com

From touting Biden's economic agenda to correcting DeSantis' consistent mispronunciation of the Vice President Kamala Harris' first name, Newsom aimed to be an effective surrogate for Democrats.

A standout moment, Newsom taking Desantis to task for his policies that target the LGBTQ community -- namely, the Florida policy critics dubbed "Don't Say Gay." Newsom invoked former President Ronald Reagan's refusal to support a proposed ban of lesbian and gay teachers.

"I don't like the way you demean people. I don't like the way you demean the LGBTQ community," said Newsom. "I don't like the way you demean and humiliate people you disagree with Ron, I find this fundamentally offensive."

PHOTO: Republican presidential candidate and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis speaks to the news media after debating Democratic California Governor Gavin Newsom on Fox News in Alpharetta, Nov. 30, 2023.
Republican presidential candidate and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis speaks to the news media after debating Democratic California Governor Gavin Newsom on Fox News in Alpharetta, Nov. 30, 2023.
Erik S Lesser/Shutterstock

For DeSantis, it was a chance to remind conservative viewers of the leadership that made him popular in the first place. It was also a moment for DeSantis to paint dystopian images of life under Democratic leadership.

"Gavin Newsom was mayor of San Francisco, so he took the San Francisco model, turned that into a template for California's collapse," DeSantis said. "Now the left wants to take the California model and use that as a template for America's collapse."

It all comes as his campaign seems to flail as former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley gains traction and Trump still looms over the entire GOP field far out ahead in polling.

The DeSantis campaign framed this debate as the "biggest one yet," despite the fact that it wasn't one with any of the opponents he needs to beat if he has any path to the nomination at all.

None of what happened on the debate stage will likely change the reality of the Republican primary landscape, though the arguments made from the debate stage could be a preview of what's to come in a general election from the governors respective parties.

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