Newsom vs. DeSantis Debate Nov. 30 Promises Fireworks

Newsom vs. DeSantis Debate Nov. 30 Promises Fireworks

(L) California Gov. Gavin Newsom speaks at a VA facility in Los Angeles, Calif., on Nov. 10, 2021. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times); (R) Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis in an undated file photo. (Courtesy of Ron DeSantis for Governor)

John Seiler
John Seiler


Updated: 12/21/2023


Never before have two serious candidates for the presidency from different parties debated before the primaries even started.
Of course, while Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is an official candidate currently polling a distant second place to former President Donald Trump for the Republican nomination, California Gov. Gavin Newsom only is a shadow candidate waiting to see if Democratic President Joe Biden drops out. In these pages more than a year ago, I was among the first to start reporting on Mr. Newsom’s barely concealed ambition.
So what’s going to happen at their debate scheduled for Nov. 30 on Fox News? It’s being moderated by Fox anchor Sean Hannity, whose interview of Mr. Newsom I dissected in The Epoch Times on June 14.
Basically, each candidate isn’t really debating the other, but auditioning for the nomination in his own party. Any slights or barbs aimed at the other really are aimed to impress voters in the taunter’s own party, not win votes among the general electorate. Mr. DeSantis especially is aiming at those in the first crucial states, Iowa with its caucuses on Jan. 15 and New Hampshire with its Jan. 23 primary.
Mr. Newsom, by contrast, has to assume Mr. Biden at least will sail through the first primaries and, after Super Tuesday March 5, garner enough delegates to nab the nomination. Newsom therefore effectively is auditioning before the Democratic National Committee, which would pick a potential Biden replacement. In particular, Mr. Newsom has to show he’s far better than his obvious challenger, Vice President Kamala Harris, who generally is not looked on favorably for her verbal gaffes and apparent lack of leadership skills.

Newsom’s Line of Attack

Mr. Newsom has given us a clear indication of his line of attack by running ads blasting Mr. DeSantis in Florida and Washington, D.C. The Sunshine State ads tweak Mr. DeSantis in his home base. And the ads in the nation’s capital are aimed at the many Democratic National Committee (DNC) honchos who live there and either work in the government, or are lobbyists and other appendages of the national bureaucracy.
The ad begins showing a big billboard with a female doctor and a black woman. Mr. Newsom voices the words on the billboard: “Wanted: Any woman who has an abortion after six weeks, and any doctor who gives her care, will be guilty of a felony. Abortion after six weeks will be punished by up to five years in prison. Even though many women don’t even know they’re pregnant at six weeks. That’s not freedom. That’s Ron DeSantis’s Florida.” The ad says it’s paid for by the Campaign for Democracy PAC, Mr. Newsom’s group.
Actually, even before the 1973 Roe vs. Wade decision legalizing abortion until it was overturned in 2022, women seeking abortions were not prosecuted, only abortionists. The same is true under Florida’s law. But it’s not surprising Newsom is twisting the truth here. He’s appealing directly to the fevered emotions of DNC members.
Mr. Newsom also can be expected to attack Mr. DeSantis on so-called “book bans,” in which Mr. DeSantis has banned showing children vile pornography; and on guns, with Mr. Newsom touting his proposed 28th Amendment to repeal much of the Second Amendment right “to keep and bear arms.”
A tricky issue for Mr. Newsom will be immigration, as even his own party has started to rebel against the open-borders he has favored, as by giving illegal aliens welfare and ID cards. In particular, New York City Mayor Eric Adams has charged the immigration crisis “will destroy New York City.”

DeSantis’s Line of Attack

Mr. DeSantis’s struggle is different. His main challenge is fending off former U.N. Ambassador and South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley to keep his place as the top challenger to Mr. Trump. The FiveThirtyEight aggregate of polls for Nov. 22 found: Mr. Trump 60.3 percent, Mr. DeSantis 12.6 percent, and Ms. Haley 10.0 percent, within striking distance of the No. 2 position. Entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy scored a distant fourth with 4.9 percent.
Mr. DeSantis will be highlighting his governorship in Florida. This will include pointing out how his state has attracted large numbers of Californians fleeing Mr. Newsom’s policies. Pro-life is important to Republicans, so Mr. DeSantis will confirm Mr. Newsom bringing up the ban, although not the Californian’s characterization of it.
Other issues will be Florida’s education achievements vs. California’s. Mr. DeSantis likely will bring up U.S. News ranking Florida No. 1 in education, while California ranked only No. 20. Gun rights also are big among GOP voters, so Mr. DeSantis will highlight his state’s laissez faire attitude toward concealed carry. To that, Mr. Newsom will point out Florida’s homicide rate is 7.4 per 100,000, compared to California’s 6.4.
An interesting debate point to watch for is how each candidate deals with Mr. Trump. For Mr. Newsom, attacking Mr. Trump and his MAGA followers on almost anything is an easy way to score points among DNC delegates.
But for Mr. DeSantis, although he sometimes has attacked The Donald on the campaign trail, and in the debates, he can’t go too far. That’s because, should he somehow get the nomination, Mr. DeSantis needs all those Trump and MAGA voters to defeat Mr. Biden—or Mr. Newsom—on Nov. 5, 2024. Expect Mr. Newsom to jab away on that sore.

Conclusion: An Important Debate

This should be a fun one. Mr. DeSantis started out unsteady in the first GOP debate, but has gained stature in the other two. The fourth Republican debate is slated for Dec. 6 on NewsNation at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa.
It also will be interesting to see the ratings for the Newsom-DeSantis combat. Will it be more than we’ve seen for the GOP debates, which have suffered declining viewership? The Aug. 23 first debate scored 13 million viewers; the Sep. 27 debate 9.5 million; and the Nov. 8 debate 7.5 million.
Mr. DeSantis and Mr. Newsom both would love for this to be a preview of debates they would hold next fall as the nominees of their respective parties—after Mr. Trump and Mr. Biden leave the field. As Shakespeare would put it, that’s such stuff as dreams are made on.

John Seiler is a veteran California opinion writer. Mr. Seiler has written editorials for The Orange County Register for almost 30 years. He is a U.S. Army veteran and former press secretary for California state Sen. John Moorlach. He blogs at and his email is

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