The Morning Briefing: What Did DeSantis vs Newsom Do for DeSantis vs Trump?

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Because this election season has to keep finding new ways to get weirder, American political junkies were, um, treated last night to a debate between Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, California Gov. Gavin Newsom, and Fox News Channel Gov. Sean Hannity. 

From the moment that this debate was announced, my first thought was that the 2024 Presidential Election Circus didn’t really need another side show. My second thought was that the only one risking anything by participating was DeSantis. It’s not that he isn’t good in these faux modern “debates.” He’s been the clear winner in the GOP primary events held so far, despite what the Nikki Haley Establishment fan club would have you believe. 

It’s make-or-break crunch time for DeSantis in the GOP primary race right now, and maybe he thought that beating up on Gavin Newsom for an evening would help him move the needle a bit — I get that. I don’t believe that it will work out that way for him, but I understand the thinking behind it.

DeSantis did well, of course. Here’s some of Paula’s recap of the evening:

Hannity promised at the beginning of the debate that he would not tip the scales in favor of one candidate, but the questions he asked and the graphics he displayed definitely favored DeSantis. He debated Newsom several times, which I wish he hadn’t done. DeSantis proved more than capable of handling Newsom on his own. In fact, he wiped the floor with Newsom, who wouldn’t know a truthful statement if it hit him in the head. Over and over again, the Florida governor used facts to back up his claims and called out Newsom for saying things that were not true. 

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The overwhelming consensus on conservative media was that DeSantis dominated. There’s also overwhelming support for DeSantis on conservative media. So, he managed to impress people who were already impressed with him. Maybe all of that praise will indeed help sway GOP voters who are supporting Nikki Haley or Vivek Ramaswamy. We will soon know. 

Those who don’t frequently peruse conservative media sites aren’t going to see that kind of praise, however. I was monitoring center-left Twitter/X accounts and several other media sites all last night. Reading them, you’d have thought Newsom cleaned DeSantis’s clock. They all highlighted one or two Newsom zingers, and completely ignored substantive takedowns by DeSantis. 

For example, several accounts were quick to share this:

That’s the risk of any showdown with a Democrat — the media will always rush in to do some PR. 

Again, DeSantis might pick off some of what I now refer to as “Nikkiramachristie” voters thanks to his performance. Or, he may have alienated some undecided Republican voters by indulging in what could be construed as a vain Florida tourism pitch. 

I like DeSantis, I didn’t need last night’s debate to convince me that he’s a better governor than Gavin Newsom. I’m also a big believer in not giving attention-seeking pathological liar Dems like Newsom any added exposure. At this critical juncture, DeSantis didn’t need an extra public forum where someone could attack him. 

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It was an interesting change of pace in what will no doubt be a very unique election. For DeSantis, however, I don’t think it was a necessary change of pace. 

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