The two most prominent governors in the country have tentatively agreed to a debate. Ron DeSantis of Florida and Gavin Newsom of California have regularly been at one another’s throats, and may now have the opportunity to discuss their differing opinions face to face in a Fox News moderated debate.
“The Florida Republican and California Democrat have repeatedly sparred over policies in their respective states, each representing one side of the ideological spectrum through occupying different political perches,” POLITCO reported.” DeSantis, a Republican, is trailing former President Donald Trump for the Republican presidential nomination while Newsom, a Democrat, has brushed aside questions bout his own presidential ambitions to become a super surrogate of sorts for President Joe Biden.”
Ron DeSantis takes the bait
Newsom had worked at Ron DeSantis for months, encouraging the former JAG lawyer to enter a one on one debate. But DeSantis finally agreed. “Absolutely I’m game,” DeSantis told Sean Hannity on Wednesday. “Just tell me when and where.”
So what changed DeSantis’s mind?
I assume his political circumstances.
DeSantis is a full thirty points behind Trump in the GOP polls and was no doubt keen to find something, anything to jump start his campaign. Agreeing to debate Newsom likely reflects the internal desperation of the Ron DeSantis campaign.
Not that debating Newsom is desperate, necessarily, just a little bit unusual. Off the top of my head, I can’t name an analogous debate. Two governors, not in competition for an election, debating each other? The format is unique.
Obviously, both governors have run the numbers and determined that a debate would be politically advantageous. It makes sense – reflecting the modern trend of local and state politics getting wrapped up into national politics. The trend is disturbing, as it drives an erosion in the trust of local government, an erosion in local journalism, an increase in partisanship, an increase in venom at the local level.
What Happens Now?
Ron DeSantis v. Newsom would pivot some attention away from federal elected officials and toward state-level elected officials, which may seem like a counter to the nationalization of local politics – but really it’s just a manifestation of the manner in which local and state politics have become a battleground for national-level disputes. DeSantis and Newsom have nothing to functionally debate as they govern entirely different jurisdictions and are not directly competing.
Yes, the two men could well become future presidential election opponents. But right now they’re just two governors representing different sides of the political spectrum. Meaning the debate will likely center around ideology, which doesn’t do anyone much good outside of providing some entertainment value. And to be clear, despite my reservations about the principle of the debate, I’m still going to watch the thing if it actually happens.
“A debate would – to put it mildly – be an unpredicted event in modern presidential politics even in an age of seemingly endless cable news town halls,” POLITICO reported. “For DeSantis, it would provide a new venue and opponent to contrast his record in Florida…Newsom, should a debate happen, would feel the weight of his political party on his shoulders under a national spotlight brighter than he’s experienced before.”
The debate will (appropriately) fuel speculation that Newsom has eyes on higher political office. And if the debate goes off, it will set a benchmark for coherence and vitality within the Democratic Party that President Biden is unlikely to match.
Harrison Kass is the Senior Editor and opinion writer at 19FortyFive. An attorney, pilot, guitarist, and minor pro hockey player, Harrison joined the US Air Force as a Pilot Trainee but was medically discharged. Harrison holds a BA from Lake Forest College, a JD from the University of Oregon, and an MA from New York University. Harrison listens to Dokken.