The Not-So-Great Red vs. Blue State Debate
Two prominent governors faced off in a debate hosted by Fox News on Thursday, creating more questions about the motivations of DeSantis and Newsom than policy.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis (R) decided to debate California Governor Gavin Newsom (D) in an attempt to show that he could dominate the stage on Republican issues like abortion, transgenderism and “wokeness,” hoping to give himself a much needed boost within the Republican Party.
For all intents and purposes, this would have seemed like a lay-up for any other Republican candidate. The live, 90-minute debate was fixed…I mean moderated, by Fox News' Sean Hannity in Alpharetta, Georgia. But, given the mismatch of oration skills between these men, we have to examine what the real motivations are for both sides.
For anyone who is interested in an quick recap of the event, I have chosen the following video clip below because it is succinct and thorough. I will not be assessing the debate performances because I don’t think that is the real story. It seems like the motivations behind both sides wanting to engage in this debate is where the real action lies.
The DeSantis team nicknamed the confrontation the "The Vendetta in Alpharetta" in an attempt to spin the debate as a real match-up contest. DeSantis hyped the event with tagline "Tale of the Tape" graphics and paid ads on X. In these tweets, the DeSantis campaign was trying to emphasize the difference in their two respective state economies, to sell the conservative narrative that Republicans are still the party of fiscal responsibility.
On the other side we have Gavin Newsom, who was no doubt looking to sharpen his political skills for a future presidential run in a debate where he felt very confident and had little to lose. “Even if he wins, he loses," Newsom said ahead of the GOP debate. "You think Trump is not going to have a field day on this? Trump's gonna make him look so small."
Both men represent the extreme versions of their own parties, so it is hard to imagine that any diehard conservative or liberal who tuned in will be changing their mind on either of the governors. The real question is: how many un-decided voters actually watched this political cage fight and who will be swayed by anything that happened in a way that will actually influence their vote in 2024.
DeSantis is in desperate need of a numbers boost right now in order to have any chance of competing with Donald Trump in the Republican Primary elections next year. He trails Trump by nearly 50 points. Considering the vibrato and bluster with which Trump maintains a firm grip on the Republican Party, it’s hard to imagine that DeSantis will ever be able to pull ahead with his lackluster and hollow performances. Showcasing these weaknesses on a stage with Governor Newsom — a sharp and cunning political beast who was looking to devour DeSantis — just looked like another regrettable move by the DeSantis campaign.
The real motivation of the DeSantis team is perhaps best revealed in a promo quote from James Uthmeier, DeSantis's Campaign Manager, who called this debate "the biggest one yet." Uthmeier, who may soon be out of a job when DeSantis does not secure the numbers he needs, has suggested that Newsom will replace President Biden as the likely Democratic nominee next year saying, “A Newsom presidency would accelerate America's decline.” This kind of statement shows a much bigger GOP plan at work here — one that harnesses the eagerness of DeSantis in comparing himself to Gavin Newsom, in a way that makes Joe Biden appear weak as the Democratic frontrunner, in order to help Donald Trump in 2024.
Given DeSantis’ polling numbers and his inability to compete with Trump, who has yet to even grace a Republican debate stage in this cycle, maybe the person who has nothing to lose here is Ron DeSantis. Now the lingering question for DeSantis has switched from “does he understand how stupid this is” to “does he understand that he is being used as bait by his own party to help a rival primary candidate?” I would say “poor Ron, he has to manufacture a competitor to compete” but that would be giving him the credit that should go to his campaign manager.
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Amee Vanderpool writes the SHERO Newsletter, is an attorney, published author, contributor to newspapers and magazines, and an analyst for BBC radio. She can be reached at email@example.com or follow her on Twitter @girlsreallyrule.
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