The Memorable Moments in the DeSantis-Newsom Debate

The two governors went head to head in a highly-anticipated face-off

What’s happening: Governors Gavin Newsom and Ron DeSantis recently squared off in a highly-anticipated “red state-blue state” debate. The debate, hosted by Sean Hannity, starkly revealed just how different California and Florida really are.

Covering ground: The exchanges between Newsom and Desantis were sometimes testy, with both trading barbs and often talking over one another. But they managed to cover an unexpectedly wide range of issues, from immigration and education to COVID and the economy.

Memorable: In a striking debate moment, DeSantis showcased a San Francisco “poop heat map” to criticize Newsom's handling of homelessness. DeSantis later presented an explicit book allegedly used in California schools, using it to challenge Newsom's educational policies.

  • Note: New reports show that Newsom’s wife had caused the debate to end early because of his weak performance.

Other highlights:

  • DeSantis critiqued Newsom's handling of pandemic restrictions, suggesting Newsom didn't follow his own rules.

  • DeSantis defended Florida's "Parental Rights in Education" law, often dubbed the "Don't Say Gay" bill. He argued it ensures parents' involvement in education and shields kids from material that doesn’t match parents’ values.

  • DeSantis compared Florida’s economic growth to California's high taxes and restrictive regulatory climate. He credited his tax cuts and business-friendly policies for Florida's economic health.

  • On COVID-19 measures, DeSantis championed individual freedom and protection for at-risk groups, contrasting this with Newsom's more stringent lockdowns and mask mandates.

  • Newsom targeted DeSantis's declining Florida poll numbers, implying his policies aren't well-received even by his own voters. DeSantis, without directly addressing the remark, responded with a composed smile at the camera.

  • The governors also sparred over immigration. Newsom labeled DeSantis's policies as "cruel" and "inhumane," while DeSantis condemned California as a "sanctuary state" for criminals.

A long rivalry: Newsom and DeSantis have become paragons of the Republican and Democrat governance models, respectively, and have been taking shots at one another for over a year. While both governors have taken highly publicized trips to their counterparts' states in recent months, Thursday night’s debate was the first time they faced off in person.

Things to come: Newsom is widely seen as a frontrunner for the 2028 Democrat presidential nomination. If DeSantis loses this year’s Republican primary, he could potentially run again in the next cycle. Last night’s debate could be an unusual early preview of another face-off in the not-too-distant future.