Issues & Insights

Go On, Gavin, Don’t Be Afraid — Debate DeSantis

Boy, a few dark clouds appear on your horizon and you just go all to pieces.” – Butch to Sundance in “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.”

Some months ago, California Gov. Gavin Newsom said he would be “all in” on a debate with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. DeSantis later accepted. Now some are wondering if Newsom’s offer was sincere because it looks as if he wants to avoid the verbal sparring. Which makes sense: Newsom probably knows he can’t take the heat.

Newsom was fast-tracked for political stardom through his connections to San Francisco wealth and power. He was groomed and polished by the Gettys, the Pritzkers and the Fishers, not only in politics but in business, where he was set up not to fail.

But on his way to the governor’s mansion in Sacramento, which took him through the San Francisco mayor’s and the lieutenant governor’s offices, he never faced a capable political opponent in an election or debate. His path to the next political office was always clear of anything that might slow him or cause him even the slightest adversity. It has always been Blue sailing for him in California.

When Newsom did run into a minor storm, he crumbled. In what’s been called his “damn” interview in August 2021 with editorial and opinion writers from McClatchy’s California newspapers, the governor, about a month before he survived a failed recall, reacted to not-at-all-hostile questions by uttering “damn” nine times, and slamming “his desk with his hand and fist 59 times,” the California Globe Reported.

A YouTuber who posted the video online called Newsom’s reactions “a whiny self-pitying recall rage rant.” Larry Elder, who ran for governor in the recall election, tweeted that Newsom had morphed “into Captain Queeg.”

When DeSantis confronts Newsom with hard questions, and indisputable facts, how is he going to hold it together? How does he explain that people are fleeing from California and to Florida without losing his cool?

Furthermore, how would he defend his record, without becoming flustered, when he is asked why his state:

  • Lost population for the first time in its history while he was governor?
  • Has lost population for three straight years?
  • Has entered a period of economic sclerosis while the Florida economy is the best in the country?
  • Is losing businesses at an alarming rate?
  • Has a homelessness problem that is entirely out of control?
  • Has two failing major cities?
  • Has the highest gasoline prices in the country while Florida’s are roughly the same as the U.S. average?

As author and university professor Joel Kotkin recently wrote, Newsom is the president nobody needs. The California governor would do the public a great service by demonstrating that as soon as possible by debating DeSantis.

— Written by the I&I Editorial Board

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The Issues and Insights Editorial Board has decades of experience in journalism, commentary and public policy.


  • You left out California’s fiscal crisis while Florida is enjoying record surpluses and tax cuts.

  • From the view of the East Coast, Gavin appears to be Bernie Sanders’ brain and all his destructive backward policy ideas, neatly packaged in a handsome man with his hair combed and an attractive wife by his side.

    However, look to all his backward and destructive policies eating away at California’s brilliance, innovations and can do spirit.

    All of us need to beware of Bernie’s brain now concealed in an attractive suit, and be aware how devastating that could be to all of us, far worse that the fumbling and bungling of “Common as a Sidewalk” Joe Biden.

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