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While California Governor Gavin Newsom was walking around the site before his showdown with Florida Governor Ron DeSantis in the Atlanta suburbs late Thursday, Fox News’ Sean Hannity asked a passing question.

The manner you plan to avoid answering the questions I’m about to ask you is beyond me, he says. “Best of luck!” An interview was conducted by Newsom to recall the events. What does it mean to defend one’s state? “The state is a failure.” The idea that it’s even feasible genuinely intrigues him, I believe.

The 95-minute brawl made Newsom think about those narrow-minded questions for far longer than he had anticipated. In the rematch with his Republican opponent, the Democrat from California worked tirelessly to defend his home territory. Over the course of those responses, Newsom attacked DeSantis with haymakers infused with the culture war while also campaigning for the reelection of Vice President Kamala Harris and President Joe Biden in 2024.

Although Newsom’s participation in the event was unprecedented given that he is the governor of a deeply blue state, it exposed a country deeply split over partisan politics and, more specifically, over Biden and Trump inside each party. True enough, “TONIGHT: THE REAL DEBATE!” blared Thursday alongside an image of DeSantis and Newsom on the conservative Drudge Report.

For many in the political elite, Fox News’ shambles in Alpharetta served as a fantasy of a bygone era—a throwback to the 2000s, when a vindictive and legally troubled ex-president wasn’t frantically seeking a return to power, and when Democrats weren’t devoted to their standard-bearer despite his advanced age and dismal poll numbers. Thursday night was more of a return, however fleeting, to those previous days than a glimpse into the future, which is a shame for Newsom and DeSantis.

In an article posted on X (previously Twitter), Republican strategist Josh Holmes asked whether anyone else felt strange about viewing the debate that should have taken place instead of the one given. A number of right-wingers made comparable points. The addition of Hannity as moderator, who harkens back to a bygone conservative media age of towel-snatching instead of torch-carrying, further enhanced the overall theme.

Of course, DeSantis is running for president. Despite trailing behind Trump in the race, he impressed his hard-core followers with his performance against a liberal villain. In an interview with AWN conducted just hours before the debate commenced, Newsom mentioned that one of his obstacles would be to avoid providing his opponents, much alone prospective supporters, with proof that he was trying to undermine Biden. That is to say, Newsom had the responsibility of assuring the public that he understood their thoughts precisely and quickly dispelling the myth that he would be running for office in 2024. His appearance on Fox News was justified by his involvement in Biden’s reelection campaign. Even when DeSantis actively sought to annoy him.

“I have to constantly remind myself that I am not there to run for reelection as governor,” he says, continuing on about San Francisco being a crime-ridden hellhole with no remaining companies, the worst unemployment, homelessness, and housing crisis, and comparing it to the good old days of Ronald Reagan. Neither am I planning to run for president.

“I will stand by Biden, through thick and thin, wealthy and impoverished, until death separates us,” he said, practically as a chant.

Even though it seemed contrived, Newsom managed to make his point—and more—in a phrase that his social media supporters found endearing. “One thing we both agree on, as we wrap up this discussion, is that neither of us will be our party’s nominee in 2024,” he stated.

While DeSantis remained silent in the face of that accusation, he eagerly accepted the Fox News host’s biassed arguments. Following Hannity’s explicit claim that Biden is in a state of “significant cognitive decline” and his subsequent question to DeSantis about Biden’s cognitive abilities, the governor concurred and threatened national security.

The candidate for president, according to DeSantis, “has no business” being Biden. Plus, Gavin Newsom is on board with it. Under no circumstances will he say that. His shadow campaign is being run for that reason. Nobody should be cheering him on. His abilities are inadequate. It poses a threat to our nation.

Fox has made a habit of discussing Newsom’s purported shadow run. On left-leaning networks, there is no equivalent. The most prominent opponent to Joe Biden is the relatively unknown Democratic representative from Minnesota, Dean Phillips, who is accusing his party machine of helping Biden be elected.

Perhaps this has brought more focus to Newsom, who is still being mentioned as a potential rival even though she did not go to any states during the early primaries and even though she donated millions to Biden in 2023.

According to Newsom’s interview with AWN, he maintained constant communication with White House officials and Biden’s reelection campaign advisors. His remarks as a surrogate for DeSantis in recent months were quite similar to the topics they wanted him to address in the debate. Prior to the debate, Newsom stated that his worst mistake would have been to not adequately support Biden and to avoid becoming embroiled in a drawn-out subnational struggle between Florida and California.

Unfortunately, Newsom was sidetracked from his original plan to promote Biden, undermine DeSantis, and highlight his own credentials because of that conversation.

This occurred at the conclusion of a successful year for Newsom, who overcame challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic, survived a recall effort, and continues to exert unchecked influence in Sacramento thanks to the Democratic-controlled legislature as he reimagines social programmes addressing homelessness, mental health, and the severe housing shortage.

He was unprepared for the kind of argument that ensued. Prior to Thursday night, Newsom had competed in untelevised low-wattage head-to-head battles or events with many candidates. The governor told AWN that he had to “reprogram” his brain because he had no prior experience working under the bright lights of prime-time cable TV.

“I’m more of a guy who deals with representation than a set piece guy,” Newsom expressed earlier on Thursday. “And my number of representatives is low.”

Presentations like the ones he gives for the state budget tend to be quite lengthy since he has a tendency to dispute arguments with his own facts, focus on context, concentrate over subtlety, and prepare for them in advance. Newsom spent the last week preparing for the DeSantis event, and he claimed that staying calm and collected was his number one priority so as not to come across as aggressive or overly concerned with every little detail. The objective was to swiftly mount a defence before shifting focus back to DeSantis.

According to a body language specialist who observed the debate for AWN Magazine, his smile seemed to communicate trustworthiness on a little deeper level.

While Newsom concedes that DeSantis has improved throughout the GOP primary, he notes that his opponent is still vulnerable to outbursts of anger or fake smiles. In reference to last year’s gubernatorial debate, Newsom brought up the fact that he challenged DeSantis to pledge to serve the entire four-year term if elected, alongside Democrat Charlie Crist. DeSantis took a few seconds to collect himself.

During the recording session, Newsom remembers thinking, “This guy is just literally programmed.”

And yet, Newsom conceded in the hours leading up to their discussion that the DeSantis he has seen in the past few months is a considerably better politician.

“Ron’s a young guy,” observed Newsom. “For years to come, he will be a star on a national scale.”


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