DeSantis Focuses On California’s Population Loss During Newsom Debate

Govs. Ron DeSantis of Florida and Gavin Newsom of California participated in a long-awaited debate on Thursday, which was moderated by Fox News Channel host Sean Hannity during his prime-time program.

While some supporters of Newsom, a Democrat, dutifully declared him the winner, his misleading statements and apparent inability to defend his own leftist policies led to a wide swath of the audience giving the victory to DeSantis, who is also campaigning in the 2024 GOP presidential primary.

One issue on which DeSantis assailed his opponent’s record involved the hundreds of thousands of residents who have left California for other states — like Florida — since Newsom was elected.

“California has more natural advantages than any state in the country,” DeSantis began. “You almost have to try to mess California up. And yet that’s what Gavin Newsom has done since he’s been governor. He’s the first governor to ever lose population. They actually at one point ran out of U-Hauls in the state of California because so many people were leaving.”

Placing the blame squarely on Newsom’s shoulders, DeSantis cited California’s COVID-19 lockdowns as a key factor in the decision to exit the state in recent years. He went on to accuse the Democratic governor of purposely misrepresenting his own record in an attempt to cast the high-tax, high-crime state in a false light.

“He’s very good at spinning these tales,” the Florida governor added. “He’s good at being slick and slippery. He’ll tell a blizzard of lies to be able to try to mask the failures. But the reality is they have failed because of his leftist ideology.”

In contrast, DeSantis pointed to his state’s population increase as evidence that “conservative principles work,” adding: “This country must choose freedom over failure.”

While the debate had been billed as an opportunity for viewers to hear the opposing views of two very different governors, Newsom openly embraced his perceived role as a defender of the increasingly unpopular Biden administration.

“I’m here to tell the truth about the Biden-Harris record and also compare and contrast Ron DeSantis’ record and the Republican Party’s record as a point of contrast that’s as different as daylight and darkness,” he said.