This week the Murdoch-owned Fox News will be hosting a “debate” between Gavin Newsom and Ron DeSantis. The event is being marketed as an opportunity to showcase two competing visions for America’s future – with Newsom’s California, the largest state in the union, representing an agenda of modern liberalism for America, and DeSantis’ Florida, the second largest red state in the union, carrying the putative banner for conservatism. The debate, which is scheduled to go on for 90 minutes, and be moderated by Sean Hannity, will be aired from Alpharetta, Georgia, but not feature an audience in order to “allow the governors equal opportunity to respond and address each issue,” per the network.
The reasons for Newsom’s participation are pretty straightforward. He is one of the most noteworthy governors, for reasons good and ill, in the country. His policies in California – which have returned record-setting homelessness, illegal immigration, and crime – may well foretell the fate of the rest of the country, given the Golden State’s outsized (and perfidious) economic and cultural influences. The most obvious reason for Newsom’s participation is to position himself to be Biden’s successor if and when the current occupant of the Oval Office is unable to finish his term, for whatever reason, or agrees to step aside for a younger replacement, in the face of tanking poll numbers, to give his party a better shot in the 2024 general election. As it currently stands, even though Democrats have a significant leg up over their Republican counterparts in manipulating and rigging election outcomes, the poll numbers are now so lopsided in favor of President Trump that it would deeply complicate their ability to steal the election again, at least by using the same playbook as 2020.
That is not to say it won’t be attempted. But it does appear, at least at this point, that the strategy for the Democrats come 2024 is less reliance on ballot harvesting and media censorship – though those measures will come back with a vengeance, if all else fails – and, more, a dependency on the weaponized judicial system, and by extension, reliance on antidemocratic alternatives – i.e., rogue judges and district attorneys – to try to hinder the 45th President in his tracks.
As such, the opportunity to pit Newsom against DeSantis in a primetime cable news slot should be construed as a part of a much larger conspiracy to help, ultimately, Biden and the Democratic Party take down Donald Trump. While this ploy is bound to backfire – and will almost definitely receive poor ratings – the key takeaway is the subversive role Ron DeSantis is playing in all this. At this point in his presidential campaign, there is no need to boost his national profile: most Republican voters already know who he is and what he stands for. Indeed, it is because they know Ron DeSantis is this year’s spoiler candidate, the equivalent of a Ted Cruz or Jeb Bush, that explains why his poll numbers have dropped from within nearly 10 points of Trump back in January, to single digits today. Republican voters are not stupid: they have quickly discovered that Ron DeSantis is a charlatan, backed by the same establishment and globalist-aligned special interests and donors that, in previous elections, supported Bush, McCain, and Romney, and have abandoned their support for him, accordingly.
They understand Ron DeSantis is an empty vessel for the Republican establishment, and his entire campaign was a botched attempt to wrap the failed Bush-era politics of old in the packaging of MAGA. On the issues and causes that actually matter: the weaponization of the justice system and intelligence agencies; big tech censorship; Biden’s catastrophic migrant crisis; the imprisonment of January 6 demonstrators, DeSantis has been deafeningly silent. His campaign represents an attempted subversion of the MAGA movement. It is being controlled by individuals, some of whom are registered foreign agents, who represented “never Trump” at its absolute worst and continue to keep the flame of that helpless movement alive by glomming onto DeSantis’ equally doomed bid for the presidency.
It then figures that DeSantis would agree to help Biden and the Democrats by “debating” Newsom. DeSantis has already had plenty of opportunities to debate this season – he’s participated in three Republican primary debates already, performed underwhelmingly, and is poised to compete in another one next month. So, the reason can’t be debating experience. Nor is it an opportunity to showcase his talents and contrast his agenda with another Democrat: he’s already defeated two Democratic candidates for the Florida governorship, once in 2018 against Andrew Gillum, and once just last year against Charlie Crist – both of whom roughly had the same policies and vision as Gavin Newsom. Nor, again, is it an opportunity to boost his national ratings: he’s already well known within the Republican field, as demonstrated consistently by polling that places him at a distant second in the Republican primary.
Instead, the only reason is to allow Newsom to demonstrate his ability to take down one of the most prominent Republican governors in the country. This will lend cachet to Newsom’s brand – even though DeSantis has been a notoriously poor debater all throughout his political career. In doing so, part of the plan is to help convince Democrat leaders to make the last-minute swap out of Biden for Newsom. The writing is so clearly on the wall. DeSantis, for his part, is playing the role of dutiful Uniparty foot soldier: he must understand that his presidential campaign is shipwrecked, and his political career is now likely over since he committed the fatal mistake of making an enemy of President Trump.
Thus, he is attempting to save face, at least with the Washington establishment, by giving them another weapon in the arsenal to sabotage Trump’s third presidential bid. While this charade is bound to fail, much like every other attempt to oust Trump from national politics, the important lesson is that, forever should be dispelled any doubts about DeSantis’ true loyalties being with the Swamp. Though he may not admit it, his actions strongly indicate that he would rather help the opposition than support the frontrunner of his own party.
The simple fact is that Ron DeSantis is sitting on his hands, wasting precious time, energy, and resources on a pipedream campaign, when he could be doing much in his current position to reverse some of the damage of the Biden regime on the country. In addition to stepping aside and endorsing the frontrunner, he could be using his executive power and bully pulpit as governor to mount a public pressure campaign to end the witch-hunt against President Trump, particularly the federal investigation occurring in his own backyard. He could – and should – call on other Republican governors across the country to do the same. He should also deploy his national guard to protect President Trump’s assets within the state of Florida from any unconstitutional interference by federal intelligence agencies or the Department of Justice, and use them to seal off Florida’s coasts from invasive migrants – and offer assistance to adjacent states, like Georgia and Alabama, who so desperately need it.
Most importantly, DeSantis should, rather than running in the opposite direction of President Trump, instead deploy the playbook he used to successfully tip the scales so decisively in his favor in Florida and adapt those lessons to other battleground states: Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Arizona, Georgia, Michigan.
If DeSantis were truly America First, rather than debating Newsom in Alpharetta, he would be on the ground registering new Republican voters in Athens. He would be calling on his fellow Republican governors to do the same. Instead of having conniptions over what a MAGA influencer said or did not say about his wife on social media – a medium his campaign has been disproportionately fixated on, in part because they are like the gang who couldn’t shoot straight in their real-life operations – DeSantis would ditch the awkward boots and replace them with footwear in which he would be comfortable registering voters, while holding up signs for passing motorists to “Vote for President Trump.”
Paul Ingrassia is a Law Clerk at The McBride Law Firm, PLLC. He graduated from Cornell Law School in 2022 and is on the Board of Advisors of the New York Young Republican Club. He is also a two-time Claremont Fellow.