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Tense Newsom-DeSantis debate forces Hannity to play 'hall monitor'

The governors lead two of the largest states in the nation.

Published: November 30, 2023 8:57pm

Updated: November 30, 2023 10:33pm

Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis and California Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom faced off in a Fox News debate on Thursday with host Sean Hannity serving as its moderator. Within minutes, the pair devolved into talking over one another during virtually every question. Hannity repeatedly was forced to intervene and urge the pair to allow one another to speak.

"I don't want to be a hall monitor. It's not my style," Hannity said. He was forced to repeat the phrase midway through the debate as nearly every question saw the pair trade charged accusations or speak over one another.

The first segment of the "Red State vs. Blue State" debate saw the pair field questions as to the net migration of residents from blue to red states and the differences in their respective tax policies. Both candidates took their first remarks to throw pointed insults at one another.

"You almost have to try to mess California up," DeSantis opened, before blaming Newsom for mismanaging the state on a litany of issues. "They have failed because of his leftist ideology ... This country must choose freedom over failure."

Newsom then accused DeSantis of wanting to send the country back to the pre-1960s era by rolling back abortion and voting rights. He further accused DeSantis and former President Donald Trump of trying to "light democracy on fire."

"Neither of us will be the nominee for our party in 2023," he added, in an apparent nod to speculation as to his own candidacy and jab at DeSantis's polling numbers in the GOP primary. Newsom went on to challenge the premise of people leaving blue states for red states, asserting the situation was in fact the reverse and that Floridians were traveling to California.

The pair then argued intensely over their states' respective tax policies. Whereas DeSantis focused primarily on asserting that Californians endured higher tax rates than Floridians, Newsom adamantly insisted that Californians in fact paid less in taxes than in many other states.

Immigration featured prominently in the second segment.

DeSantis "absolutely lacks any credibility" on immigration, Newsom said. He further excoriated Republicans for not advancing President Joe Biden's immigration agenda. Newsom then turned to DeSantis and accused him of "gamesmanship" by sending migrants to Martha's Vineyard.

The Florida governor blasted Newsom for what he called a "flurry of lies." 

"California is a sanctuary state. They thumb their nose at federal immigration law," he continued, before highlighting the case of a illegal immigrant who committed murder after Los Angeles refused to cooperate with federal authorities on his deportation.

Newsom touted his status as a border-state governor, accusing DeSantis of playing games on immigration in a bid to "out-Trump Trump." "How's that working out for you? You're down 41 points in your own home state."

On crime, Newsom insisted that crime rates were higher in red states and specifically highlighted major cities in Florida, namely Tampa and Jacksonville. He then excoriated DeSantis for expanding gun access in Florida.

"What California wants to do is they make it harder for law abiding citizens to defend themselves," DeSantis said. 

"Gun safety saves lives," Newsom insisted, before insisting that gun death rates were worse in Florida. "Look at your own back yard."

The governors lead two of the largest states in the nation. DeSantis is currently seeking the Republican nomination for president and the event may present an opportunity for him to raise his profile outside of the Republican primary debates. Newsom, meanwhile, has attracted speculation that he may seeking the presidency, either in 2028 or as a potential stand-in for President Joe Biden should the incumbent commander-in-chief not run for some reason. The governor has repeatedly denied he has any immediate White House ambitions.

Ben Whedon is an editor and reporter for Just the News. Follow him on X, formerly Twitter.

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