5 things to know about Thursday’s Newsom-DeSantis debate, including how to watch

Two governors seen as future presidential prospects face off

It may not have the historical significance of Nixon v. Kennedy, nor will it contain the memorable lines of Carter v. Reagan or even Bentsen “You’re no Jack Kennedy” v. Quayle.

In fact, one of the debaters insists he isn’t even running for president, despite the fact that no one believes him. The other is running, but he’s trailing his party’s leader in the polls, and many don’t believe him either.

Nonetheless, ladies and gentlemen, we present “DeSantis vs. Newsom: The Great Red vs. Blue State Debate,” which will air Thursday evening on Fox News Channel and will be hosted and moderated by Sean Hannity.

Why are we having this debate?

A fair question, given that California Gov. Gavin Newsom and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis aren’t running for President of the United States, at least not yet.

Newsom has repeatedly stated that he will not seek the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination in 2024, has not filed papers to do so, and has stated that he supports President Joe Biden’s re-election and that of fellow Californian and political ally Vice President Kamala Harris.

DeSantis declared his candidacy for the Republican Party nomination in May, but despite consistently out-polling most other Republican candidates, former President Donald Trump continues to dominate the GOP field. FiveThirtyEight’s average of the most recent national Republican Primary polls puts Trump at nearly 59% and DeSantis at 13%, a figure that has shrunk since the Florida governor’s announcement.

However, Sonoma State University Political Science Professor David McCuan believes the debate provides a glimpse into each party’s potential future. Both Newsom and DeSantis are expected to remain important figures in their respective parties as popular governors of large states.

“This debate is all about who and what comes next for each party,” he said. “It should be fascinating — and when is the last time we said that about a political debate?”

What are the stakes?

Professor of American Politics at Claremont McKenna College, Jack Pitney, Jr., stated that “the stakes are much higher for DeSantis.”

“He is sinking in the polls and needs some way to revive his primary campaign,” Pitney told reporters.

Newsom, on the other hand, has a little more than three years left in office before making his next move.

“Even a subpar performance is likely to go down the memory hole long before he seeks office again,” said Pitney.

Nonetheless, political analyst Dan Schnur believes that, with Biden’s low polling, Newsom risks alienating party leaders and donors by putting himself in the spotlight and debating a potential Biden re-election rival. Recent polls show Biden’s approval rating at 44% or lower, and surveys frequently include Newsom as a possible replacement.

“Gavin Newsom has to make it clear that he will not run against Joe Biden while at the same time he continues to position himself as Biden’s successor,” he said. “That is not an easy balancing act under the best of circumstances, and Biden’s poll numbers make it even more difficult.”

What will they talk about?

The Fox News Channel announced that, “focusing on the major issues impacting the country, the debate will examine the vastly different approaches the two governors have and offer insights into their political philosophies as well as ambitions for the nation.”

“Throughout the debate,” Fox announced, “Hannity will highlight a variety of issues in each state, including the economy, the border, immigration, crime, and inflation.”

McCuan believes DeSantis and Newsom will steer the debate to issues on which they have repeatedly clashed.

“Where have the fireworks gone?” “I’d suspect two areas: the border, immigration, and reproductive rights politics,” McCuan said. “So, what will be important and receive a lot of words?” Women and children. Choice and security.”

This month, Newsom paid for ads in Florida criticizing DeSantis for signing a ban on abortions after six weeks of pregnancy, which is said to correspond to when the baby has a detectable heartbeat. It depicts a woman and a doctor holding a sign that says “Wanted” for possible arrest “by order of Governor Ron DeSantis.”

DeSantis has dispatched migrant border crossers to Sacramento to chastise Newsom over how California’s “sanctuary state” policy is fueling an illegal immigration surge at the southern border, which critics have linked to human and drug trafficking.

How will we know who won?

The 90-minute debate will be broadcast live without an audience in the Atlanta suburb of Alpharetta, Georgia. For the next half-hour, Hannity will provide live reaction with a panel of guests.

Pitney stated that, as is often the case in debates, the winner may be determined by how each candidate appears rather than the substance of their arguments and debating points. Newsom has the upper hand in this regard.

“Newsom tends to be very good on television,” Pitney said. “DeSantis’ performances have ranged from adequate to disastrous.” I’ll be on the lookout for demeanor. Will Newsom be his usual composed and assured self? Will DeSantis be witty and snappish?”

But debate points matter, and Pitney claims that the Sunshine State outperforms the Golden State in a variety of key metrics, including homelessness, crime, unemployment, education, road conditions, business tax climate, and poverty. Perhaps most tellingly, he said, “people are voting with their feet” — the Census reports that between 2020 and 2022, California lost population while Florida gained.

“Keep an eye out for the statistics duel,” Pitney warned. “How will DeSantis put these statistics to use?” “How will Newsom respond?”

How can you tune in?

The debate will take place from 6-7:30 p.m. Pacific time on Fox News Channel and will be simulcast on Fox News Radio. If you don’t have cable, you can listen on the Fox News app or find local Fox Radio stations, such as KSFO-AM 560 AM in San Francisco.

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