Before I say anything about the Gavin Newsom-Ron DeSantis debate last night on Fox News, I’d like to talk about an episode of “The Andy Griffith Show,” one of the later, color ones from season 7. Stay with me.
In this episode called “Politics Begin at Home,” there’s an open seat on the Mayberry City Council. Aunt Bee’s garden club ladies convince her to run because she’s so likable and charismatic and full of ideas. She doesn’t know that Andy has already convinced county clerk Howard Sprague to run. When he refuses to back her because he thinks Howard is more qualified, she accuses him of being a male chauvinist (hey, it was the ‘60s.) People see Howard as a nerd and a stiff, and his chances look bleak until the debate.
When asked about important issues like building a new bridge or replacing the sewers under Main Street, Aunt Bee’s answers are all the same empty rhetoric designed to get applause (“If it is the will of the people that a bridge be built, then it SHALL be built! The will of the people will always be my guiding star!”) But Howard responds, “Well, that would be a waste of the taxpayers’ money,” and offers detailed alternative solutions that are cheaper and more effective. When there’s time for one more question, Aunt Bee asks it: Why would anyone vote for her when her opponent is obviously far more qualified?
And that was the Newsom-DeSantis debate in a nutshell, minus the fantasy part at the end where the charismatic but terrible candidate had enough integrity and civic mindedness to admit to being obviously unqualified and endorsed the other guy. Again, this was Mayberry in 1966, not the real world in 2023.
I’m not going to recap all the points of the debate, but it mostly amounted to Newsom telling the kind of whoppers that are so at odds with everything you know and everything you’ve seen with your own eyes that you might need help picking your jaw up off the floor. He had the unenviable job (which he voluntarily took on; this debate debacle was his idea) of trying to convince us that Florida is a failing prison state while California is a shining beacon of success and freedom. DeSantis remained more of a stolid Howard Sprague type than a fiery debater, but he batted most of the lies out of the park with the seldom-used debate weapon known as “facts.”
Here are five particularly interesting moments from the debate.
But for many observers, the moment when if it had been a fight, the refs would’ve stopped it came when DeSantis said this:
“I was talking to a fella who had made the move from California to Florida. He was telling me that Florida’s much better governed, safer, better budget, lower taxes. Then he paused and said ‘by the way, I’m Gavin Newsom’s father-in-law.’”
As Bonchie at Redstate observed, “I'm pretty sure Christmas dinner is going to be awkward this year.”
Another highlight was when DeSantis countered Newsom’s claim that California is “the Freedom State” (recall that’s the state where someone was arrested during the pandemic for walking alone on a windy beach without a face mask) by listing all the things you’re free to do there, including defecating in the street. Which he illustrated by taking out a “poop map” that warns people where human feces has been spotted in San Francisco (Spoiler alert: everywhere!)
Newsom was so bereft of actual talking points that at one point, he went off on a diatribe at DeSantis for supposedly mispronouncing Kamala Harris’ name (Is it KAH-ma-la or “Ka-MAH-la”?), which has to rank in the mid-nine digits on anyone’s list of things to give a darn about, and I can’t help suspecting that includes Kamala Harris.
These issues are worth bringing up to illustrate the stark difference between how well red states and blue states are run. But I think all you really need to know is the U-Haul Index, which I believe we invented on my radio show over a decade ago, and now I see it everywhere. As of last night, renting a 20-foot U-Haul moving truck from Los Angeles to Miami for nine days costs $5,139.00. Renting the same truck from Miami to Los Angeles is only $3898.00. U-Haul is so desperate to get anyone to drive one of their trucks back to California that they’ll give you a $1241 discount just to return it for them so they can rent it to the next escapee.
Finally, why should anyone care about a debate between DeSantis, whom, as Newsom taunted, will not be the GOP nominee, and Newsom, who insisted he wasn’t running and backs Joe Biden fully? Because there’s always a chance that due to legal issues or voter second thoughts, Trump might not be the nominee, and this debate gave DeSantis his first real chance to shine instead of being one of a crowd of people shouting at each other.
And there’s a much greater chance that Biden will be pushed – sorry, “convinced” – to drop out at the last minute, and the Dems will need a replacement (that won’t be Kamala, no matter how she pronounces it.) Newsom claims to be uninterested, but like everything else he said last night, that’s a transparent lie. If he didn’t have national ambitions, he’d be trying to fix his own state instead of running around the country badmouthing better-run red states. He wanted to make it known that he’s tanned, hair-gelled and ready to step in the second Joe breaks a hip.
But if this debate was his big chance to show that we should let him do to America what he’s done to California, it was a blunder of epic proportions.
Related: Good analysis of the debate by a Californian who knows Gavin Newsom only too well:
UPDATE: Political Rule of Thumb: If you spend the day after a debate whining that you were offended by your opponent, feel insulted by him, and suspect he cheated…That’s just a longer way of saying, “I lost. Badly.”