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It was warmth and never a lot gentle in Newsom-DeSantis debate

by Mark Z. Barabak

The prodigiously hyped debate between Gavin Newsom and Ron DeSantis was by no means going to be greater than a diversion, a quick sideshow working parallel to the primary attraction — the precise marketing campaign for the White Home.

California’s Democratic governor will not be a candidate for president, as he has oft acknowledged and reiterated a number of extra occasions Thursday night time.

Florida’s governor is working for the Republican nomination, however doing so poorly that he stooped to take part in a publicity stunt, dressed up as a nationwide coverage discussion board, that pretty reeked with the odor of DeSantis’ desperation.

Even by these meager requirements, “The Nice Crimson vs. Blue State Debate,” as Fox Information breathlessly promoted the cable TV throwdown, proved a dud.

“You’re nothing however a bully,” Newsom taunted.

“You’re a bully,” DeSantis shot again.

And so it went, for greater than 90 excruciating minutes — at the very least on these events when the 2 weren’t speaking previous or over one another, rendering giant parts of their tetchy dialogue totally incomprehensible.

A superb debate — or one which’s value its whereas — illuminates points, parses variations and sheds gentle on the persona of its individuals. You’ll be able to tune in and study one thing new in regards to the candidates, or maybe, after they’ve met on a number of events, uncover one thing contemporary and totally different.

Thursday night time’s affair was an train in affirmation, underscoring a lot of what we’ve already grasped, to wit:

  • Newsom and DeSantis genuinely despise one another.
  • They’ve vastly totally different approaches and philosophies to manipulate their sprawling, variegated states.

The night’s ringmaster, Sean Hannity, had pledged to be an evenhanded and neutral facilitator of the dialogue. However the oh-so-soft questions he gently lofted DeSantis left little doubt the place Hannity’s rooting pursuits lay.

Every phase was prefaced with a selective battery of statistics — on crime, gasoline costs, training, homelessness — that painted California as only a hair’s breadth from capsizing and sliding ingloriously into the ocean. (However not earlier than lots of its declining inhabitants dashed to get the hell out of its dystopian mire.)

Regardless of that apparent benefit, it was DeSantis who appeared ailing relaxed many of the night time, trying like a person struggling a hernia as he ready to face a root canal.

“That’s a lie,” was his customary rejoinder, surprisingly accompanied by a waxen smile that sparkled on and off as if set on a defective timer.

“You’re simply jabbering,” DeSantis mentioned throughout one other bristling back-and-forth. “I do know you wish to jabber. I do know you wish to lie.”

“Anytime you’re uncomfortable, you simply make stuff up,” Newsom responded.

For California’s governor, who loves gamboling on a nationwide stage, the entire night was a lark. He has taunted DeSantis from lengthy distance for greater than a 12 months and plainly loved with the ability to shiv him up shut; a broad grin telegraphed his glee.

“You’re trolling people … to attempt to get some information and a spotlight, so you possibly can out-Trump Trump,” Newsom mentioned at one level, referencing the commanding GOP front-runner. “And by the best way, how’s that going for you, Ron? You’re down 41 factors in your individual dwelling state.”


The subplot of the night was Newsom’s supposed “shadow marketing campaign,” as DeSantis referred to as it, to wrest the Democratic nominating from the aged incumbent, President Biden.

However California’s governor was completely slavish within the function of dutiful get together soldier, repeatedly extolling Biden’s efficiency with a rat-a-tat of statistics — a Newsom hallmark — on falling inflation, rising employment and different favorable barometers.

He even leapt to the protection of his previous frenemy, Vice President Kamala Harris, when DeSantis mispronounced her first identify. (Intentionally, it appears.)

“It’s KOM-a-luh,” Newsom sounded out. “Madame Vice President, to you.”

A lot has been fabricated from the showdown as a potential preview of the 2028 presidential marketing campaign.

However that contest is political eons away.

There have been additionally comparisons made to the talk between California Gov. Ronald Reagan and New York Sen. Robert Kennedy, two different political celebrities who staged an identical type of exhibition match in Could 1967. They, too, have been seen as potential presidential rivals.

However despite the fact that Reagan’s efficiency in that sober match-up was broadly lauded, it took three tries and greater than a dozen years earlier than he lastly made it to the White Home.

Newsom could be thought-about the winner Thursday night time, if there was such a factor, just by making DeSantis present up and debate him as an equal.

Nevertheless it’s extremely unlikely that something mentioned or achieved on the red-and-blue-themed sound stage exterior Atlanta will change the trajectory of the 2024 marketing campaign.

The everyday half-life of a political debate — even one amongst reputable contenders — is about 24 hours. All of the hype apart, the Newsom-DeSantis face-off appears destined to fade simply as readily.

The most effective that may be mentioned is that given a chance to increase the discussion board past its scheduled 90 minutes — and Newsom definitely appeared desirous to go on — Fox mercifully spared its viewers and handed.

Right here’s hoping for no repeat.

Mark Z. Barabak is a columnist for the Los Angeles Instances, specializing in politics in California and the West.