The DeSantis-Newsom debate on Thursday night, moderated by Fox News’ Sean Hannity, drew strong reactions from social media users all over the political spectrum.

Governors Ron DeSantis (R-FL) and Gavin Newsom (D-CA) debated each other on the merits of their respective political ideologies in Alpharetta, Georgia. They took to the stage at 9 p.m. ET and went on for 90 minutes in a televised program officially named “The Great Red vs. Blue State Debate.”

Pre-Debate

In characteristic fashion, Donald Trump did not offer any comment at his Mar-a-Logo presser before the debate took place so as to avoid giving them free attention. Newsom is a natural rival to the 45th President, and DeSantis is currently trying to oust Trump from the top spot in the GOP roster for the 2024 election — but, as of writing, is still trailing him by almost 50 points.

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However, his campaign spokesman Steve Cheung sent out an email blast to Trump’s newsletter subscribers calling DeSantis a “thirsty, third-rate OnlyFans wannabe model” for debating “crackhead” Newsom instead of “actually campaigning” and alleged that DeSantis is a “shill for China and a CCP sympathizer.”

A reporter with Fox News asked a whole bar of people in Georgia who they think will win the election. Every single one of them responded “Trump.”

Ahead of the debate, senior politics editor at Politico Charles Mahtesian published an interesting piece about what the debate would signify.

“Boiled down to its essence, American politics has always been a story about population migration and its after-effects,” he wrote. “California’s growth was once so rapid that it picked up new House seats by the handful, decade after decade. Decennial reapportionment gave the state eight new House seats after the 1990 Census; after the 1960 Census, it picked up seven seats.”

However, this has all changed, and the facts don’t lie. “Today, for all its natural beauty and promise, it increasingly looks like a sclerotic, one-party state that is hemorrhaging population — it lost a House seat after the most recent census, for the first time in its 173-year history.”

But, Mahtesian counters, Florida currently seems to lack the “aspiration” that California had at its peak. Florida does not have a broad, century-reaching vision as California did in the 20th century, he argues. Instead, whenever it’s in the news, it’s often for divisive and parochial approaches to social issues rather than anything substantial. He does not find anything in DeSantis’ vision that promises to rival California’s status as the 5th largest economy in the world (a stat Newsom eagerly deployed within minutes of the debate starting).

The Debate

Dave Rubin quickly began chiming in, catching Newsom on his claim that California doesn’t have higher taxes.

He went on to call Newsom “the devil” and said his retelling of recent history was “nauseating.”

Andrew Follett, a senior analyst at the libertarian think tank Club For Growth, also seized on Newsom’s tax comments. “Working people” pay 4 TIMES MORE in taxes in California,” he stressed. “A single Californian making $50,000 would pay over $12k in taxes last year.”

Chris Loesch, the husband of former NRA spokeswoman Dana Loesch, said the debate was “the dismantling” of Newsom through simple statistical comparisons.

Greg Price, a communications staffer for the conservative State Freedom Caucus, provided a rapid fact check of the migratory patterns between the two states. For both 2021 and 2022, far more people migrated from California to Florida than the opposite.

Meanwhile, from the left side of the aisle, journalist and podcaster David Pakman via YouTube livestream complained throughout about the lack of structure and Sean Hannity’s biased moderating.

Possibly, most observant of all was digital strategist Eric Spracklen, who noted that the debate was barely catching attention on X.

“#debate is trending 8th behind topics from the NFL, NHL, and The Golden Bachelor,” he wrote.

The next morning, Patrick Bet-David offered his perspective on the event. In his opinion, Newsom excelled in many performative dimensions, not least his communication skills. His major area of weakness is data contradicting his worldview.

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