Govs. Gavin Newsom and Ron DeSantis, big-state governors with big national ambitions, clashed Thursday in a debate that quickly devolved into a slugfest of insults and accusations over abortion, crime, taxes and almost every other policy they champion.
They called each other liars and bullies. Newsom, DeSantis said, was too cozy with President Joe Biden. DeSantis, Newsom said, was an extremist. DeSantis said California taxes are too high. Newsom warned that Florida’s abortion policy would make lots of women criminals.
They fought and fought.
DeSantis, the governor of Florida, is seeking the 2024 Republican presidential nomination. Newsom, the governor of California, has said he’s not interested in a 2024 bid but has taken the political and financial steps that could lead to a future candidacy.
The 90-minute clash was a highly unusual matchup of up-and-coming political stars six weeks before voters begin casting the first votes of 2024 in Iowa. It was broadcast on Fox News Channel and moderated by commentator Sean Hannity.
Newsom quickly made it clear he’s squarely in Biden’s camp.
“You, in particular, Ron, are on a banning binge, a cultural purge, intimidating and humiliating people you disagree with. You and President Trump are really trying to light democracy on fire, “ he said.
He took a jab at DeSantis’ struggling campaign. “You’re behind by 40 points,” Newsom said, as former President Trump remains far ahead.
And he chided DeSantis for often mispronouncing Vice President Kamala Harris’ name. “It’s Madam Vice President to you,” Newsom said.
DeSantis was ready for the jabs. People are leaving California in droves, he said, sick of high taxes and too much crime, and thousands are heading for Florida. Look out for what Newsom and his allies want to do to the country, he said.
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