2024

‘Putdownpalooza’: Ron DeSantis, Gavin Newsom And Ninety Minutes Of Televised Torture

“It seemed like such a good idea …”

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It seemed like such a good idea. Take two governors from opposite ends of the country — one a staunch conservative, the other a liberal firebrand, both seen as leading figures in the next generation of leaders within their respective political parties — put them on a stage together for 90 minutes and let them share their differing views on what’s happening in the country and world today and where we need to go from here.

You’d think that format would provide viewers with meaningful observations and illuminating insights.

And you’d be dead wrong.

Fox News billed it as “The Great Red State vs. Blue State Debate.” A more accurate title would have been “The Contest to See Who Can Talk Over the Other Guy Most.”

Watching Florida governor Ron DeSantis and California governor Gavin Newsom go at each other for an hour and forty minutes Thursday night was as about as pleasant as having a root canal without Novocain.

The Lincoln-Douglas Debates 2.0, it wasn’t. Not by a mile.

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Fox News’ Sean Hannity brought the two to a TV studio in suburban Atlanta. With DeSantis, age 45, and Newsom – a little older at 56 – the potential existed for hearing two competing, dynamic new visions for America’s path forward. Certainly the two look like strapping young college guys compared to 81-year-old Joe Biden and 77-year-old Donald Trump, the presumed nominees of the two major parties next fall.

Instead, it was one prolonged putdown with words like “bullying” and “lies” hurling through the air like javelins. The encounter had as much decorum as the crowd in a Myrtle Beach dive bar when the bartender shouts, “Last call!” Instead of letting his opponent speak – and then clobbering the daylights out of him – each governor repeatedly jumped in while the other answered a question, creating repeated verbal traffic jams that could have given Atlanta’s legendary rush hour a run for its money.

There were no surprises. Conservative DeSantis aggressively defended his record, and liberal Newsom did likewise. Each portrayed his state as the garden spot of America while denouncing the other as a portal to Hell. It quickly devolved into little more than two schoolboys arguing, “My dog’s better than your dog.”

Newsom defended Biden, green energy, and abortion rights. DeSantis went after sexually explicit books in public schools (which included holding up one for show-and-tell), attacked the Biden administration’s economic record and assailed illegal immigration.

He also addressed San Francisco’s growing “feces problem.”

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Poop notwithstanding, precious little, if any, new ground was covered. It was simply a rehash of current politics shouted at “Raise the Dead” volume level with a heaping serving of name-calling thrown in for good measure.

One undercurrent ran throughout the torturous evening: The 2024 presidential campaign. Newsom repeatedly said he expects Biden to be his party’s nominee at next summer’s Democratic National Convention in Chicago. But DeSantis kept needling him on that and hung the unpopular Democratic standard bearers around his adversary’s neck.

“He is joined at the hip with Biden and Harris,” the Floridian chided. “He thinks Biden and Harris have done a great job. He thinks the economy is working because of their policies for Americans, and they are not. And so what California represents is the Biden-Harris agenda on steroids.”

Newsom got in some sharp digs of his own …

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“He’s trying to out-Trump Trump, and by the way, how’s that going for you, Ron? You’re down 41 points in your own home state,” Newsom said.

He later predicted DeSantis would “bend the knee” and wind up endorsing Trump.

Later, the Californian even brought up the Palmetto State candidate in the GOP race.

“When are you going to drop out and give Nikki Haley a shot to win?” Newsom asked DeSantis.

By the time the forum wrapped, viewers of all partisan stripes likely felt the same sense of relief once experiences when a colonoscopy has been completed.

Labeling such encounters “debates” is a gross misnomer, for they are little more than extended press conferences. But because they carry that name, Americans are obsessed with declaring a “winner” and a “loser” afterward. In this case, it was all in the eye of the beholder. Conservatives give DeSantis the W, while liberals award it to Newsom. Was anyone’s mind changed? Did anyone even watch?

There are three clear takeaways from Thursday night, however …

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First, Ron DeSantis is running out of “last chances” to reverse his campaign’s sagging fortunes. Those who had hoped this debate would mark the start of his turnaround were sadly disappointed. True, his supporters loved what they saw, but he didn’t win many new converts beyond them. Time is rapidly running out for him. The Iowa caucuses are increasingly becoming do-or-die time for him. Whether he makes it to New Hampshire and South Carolina hinges on what happens in the Hawkeye State.

Second, this one-on-one debate provides fresh fodder for pundits to rehash until next week’s fourth GOP debate in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. It is the final one scheduled for this year and could be the last opportunity for Republicans to see the leading candidates (minus Trump) side-by-side before voting begins next month.

The real loser Thursday night? Our nation. Political campaigns are like holding a mirror to the face of America. What we saw Thursday night was not a Democratic or Republican problem; the lack of respect and basic courtesy shown was yet another reflection of a country that is coming apart at the seams.

On May 15, 1967, CBS tried a similar experiment. It held an hour-long “Town Meeting of the World” just as the Vietnam War was heating up. College students around the globe posed questions directly to then-California governor and conservative stalwart Ronald Reagan and leading liberal Democratic U.S. senator Robert F. Kennedy. Some 15 million Americans tuned in on TV and radio. What they saw was a stark contrast to the verbal pie-throwing match DeSantis and Newsom engaged in. Watch this short clip, and you will see that even when the opponents interrupted each other, they did so with politeness and civility.

Politics will never solve anything until we first relearn the lost art of treating others as we would like to be treated ourselves. 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR …

Mark Powell (Provided)

J. Mark Powell is an award-winning former TV journalist, government communications veteran, and a political consultant. He is also an author and an avid Civil War enthusiast. Got a tip or a story idea for Mark? Email him at mark@fitsnews.com.

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8 comments

Thumbs Down Every "Victor" December 1, 2023 at 8:27 am

Throw in a few spears, swords, shields, two chariots, and some lions. Might as well go full Rome since we’re probably going to collapse just like them.

Reply
CongareeCatfish Top fan December 1, 2023 at 9:34 am

The debate was definitely a dumptruck full of coathangers at times ( I fault Hannity for that mostly), but RD made some major points and landed some serious body blows…the comment about Newsom’s own father in law moving to Florida to escape California was pretty epic. Newsom lied so much that it will take a 90 minute special edition documentary just to point out all the lies….the one about the Parkland Shooting was particularly egregious – DeSantis wasn’t even governor when it happened but Newsom qued it up in a way to certainly make the uninformed voter think that he was. The thing is that everyone with a hint of intellectual honesty will admit that comprehensively, Florida is a better place to live than California and it is in very large part due to how it is governed. The hundreds of thousands of people who have fled California for red states tells it all. I have a VERY liberal uncle who left SC in the 70s and lived on the Left Coast in the CA San Fran Bay area and OR for his entire adult life until he was in his early 60s….he hasn’t voted for a Republican in that entire time. Even he admitted that California had become too expensive and chaotic and moved out about ten years ago….to ultimately land in Texas. The “U-Haul stats” just don’t lie – and they show the overall picture of how regular middle class people look at the whole picture comprehensively (rather than the cherry-picking distortion that Newsome attempted), looking at taxes, regulation, cost of living, crime, education, infrastructure- they made the call to get out of California.

Reply
Dan December 1, 2023 at 10:09 pm

Guess what State made up the most new people moving to California?

Texas.

People who value freedom are moving away from Texas to places like California, where the government isn’t up in your bedroom, making medical decisions for grown adults, banning books and going backwards as a society.

Reply
Bob December 1, 2023 at 4:13 pm

Newsom would win if he ran fur President next year.

The way he do easily handled both Hannity (who clearly has a crush on Newsom) and DeSantis was masterful.

DeSantis looked like a middle schooler and debated on that level as well. Why on Earth would he debate someone who isn’t even running? It’s a little dumb, but we’re talking about Republicans here.

The head of DeSantis’ PAC quit today, so that tells you how well ol’ high heeled, puddin’ fingers did.

Reply
B B BROCKMAN Top fan December 2, 2023 at 12:47 pm

What were you smoking, Democrat Weed?

Reply
Michael Covert Top fan December 1, 2023 at 4:31 pm

That wasn’t a debate, Newsome did not answer the majority of the questions. Newsome gaslighted the entire time. DeSantis has GOT to get rid of that smug/ smile. State the facts…move on. Hannity—I lost a LOT of respect for him. he talks a big game on his show about Newsome, but face to face, he was like it was his first rodeo. He did NOT have control of that room. Will we ever see a moderator with a set of cojones to control the room? Now THAT would be good debate material.

Reply
B B BROCKMAN Top fan December 2, 2023 at 12:50 pm

I think that the moderators in each dabate I’ve seen this year has lost control of the proceedings. They always should have a mic switch and turn off their mics if it’s not within their timeframes to speak. JMO

Reply
Lord Barfington December 7, 2023 at 6:01 pm

Newsom so handily mopped the floor with DeSantis and so clearly handed him his ass that I expected DeSantis to run around the room comically clutching the seat of his pants going “My ass! My ass!”

Reply

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