In the Georgia suburbs, Newsom is defending the confusing DeSantis debate as a necessary evil

(Fox News)

In the Georgia suburbs, Newsom is defending the confusing DeSantis debate as a necessary evil

California Politics

Mackenzie Mays

Dec. 1, 2023

Hours before his confrontation Thursday


with Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, Governor of California. Gavin Newsom was at one

donut donut

store where no one seemed to recognize him thousands of miles from his home state and rightly predicted what was in store for him.

As a Democrat participating in a debate held in the Deep South and moderated by conservative Fox News host Sean Hannity, Newsom said he knew the cards were stacked against him. The much-hyped television event was “the equivalent” of pitting a Republican against progressive actress and activist Jane Fonda in a debate held in Berkeley moderated by MSNBC liberal Rachel Maddow, Newsom said.

“I’m used to taking lumps, and I’ll take lumps on behalf of [Joe Biden],” Newsom told The Times


On Thursday ahead of the debate, he called it a “privilege” to serve as a surrogate for the Democratic president as DeSantis clings to a Republican Party presidential nomination in a primary dominated by

Donald Trump. “But hopefully I get a little ‘atta boy’ for at least even showing up for this damn thing.”

While Newsom called his opponent’s participation in the debate “desperate,” he portrayed his own participation as a necessary evil to break the “doom loop” of Fox News’ right-wing spin and seize a unique opportunity to combat “extremism ‘ from DeSantis in his own echo chamber.

What took place later that evening during the debate, in a vacant building that usually serves as a child care center in Alpharetta, a suburb of 67,000 north of Atlanta, was a kind of echo chamber in itself.

The strange political confrontation between someone who is running for president and someone who is not is difficult to comprehend even for political insiders. But in the part of America where the debate over the country’s future took place, Fulton County residents were especially confused.

“Well, that’s different,” laughed Irwin Westmoreland, who worked at The Salty, the

donut donut

store Newsom visited earlier that day. The Georgia native had not heard of the debate and did not know Newsom, but said he suspected he was important because of his swagger.

Later, then 90 minutes of loud, chaotic sparring

on TV

was over, Newsom would say it was worth it and call on his fellow Democrats to do more of the same.

As Newsom and DeSantis and their respective group of staffers stormed into Fulton County, once a Republican stronghold that helped elect Biden in 2020 and cemented Georgia as a battleground, locals showed no signs of fussing over the prime-time matchup.

When the governors took over ballrooms in hotels half a mile apart where they held

press news

conferences and raising state and American flags and streaming the debate on televisions, outside, in a hotel lobby, people watched the Dallas Cowboys beat the Seattle Sehawks.

“It’s kind of flown under the radar,” Jim Gilvin, the conservative mayor of Alpharetta, said of the debate.

“The majority of people in the country, not just Alpharetta, which is wealthy and highly educated, don’t really follow politics on a day-to-day basis. They’re not really into it, they’re just trying to keep a roof over them. head.”

On Thursday, DeSantis staffers hung a sign on a podium promising “the debate America deserves.” Florida versus California meant “revival versus decline,” it said. “DeSantis is READY to win on the debate stage,” an automated text replied to those who sent the word “debate” to a phone number promoted by his campaign.


Attorney General Aty. Gene.

Ashley Moody held a press conference with Florida residents who said they fled the Golden State because of its left-wing policies. Rep. Rich McCormick (R-Ga.) then celebrated with DeSantis. Supporters drank beer and wine.

In his post-debate spin room, DeSantis explained to the media his logic for dealing with a politician who is not a presidential candidate: There wasn’t enough time for him to make his positions clear in larger debates with other Republican primary candidates. During the first Republican debate, he said, he didn’t get a question for 25 minutes.

DeSantis said he was initially hesitant when Hannity came to him with the idea of ​​debating Newsom.

But then he thought about it.

“I’m in a race where one candidate is getting a disproportionate amount of media attention and that’s why I need to be able to get my message out there,” he said, referring to Trump. To be on national television for 90 minutes, where I can cover someone who was far left, that’s good exposure for me.

Both sides walked away feeling like they had won, although exactly what they had won was still elusive.

“Why? Why is that?” said Gabby Byrd, a 24-year-old Democrat who worked at a bookstore in Alpharetta, when she heard the politicians were in her hometown for a debate but not running for the same office. She voted for Biden in 2020, as well as Democratic Senators Sens. Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff.

Byrd had never heard of Newsom “I think it’s just too far west,” but knows and hates DeSantis, whose home in Tallahassee is about a five-hour drive south. Most Americans are more familiar with DeSantis than Newsom, according to a new YouGov poll that shows 35% have no opinion of California’s governor, while 18% have no opinion of Florida’s leader.

Newsom himself had asked the same question as Byrd that day. “I guess that’s my opening question: Why are we here?” the governor said as he made plans for the debate earlier Thursday at the coffee shop in Atlanta.

But when it was over, Newsom was not only puzzled by his reasoning for entering the debate to defend Biden’s economic policies and seek his re-election, but called on his fellow Democrats to be more like him .

With Biden’s approval slipping, there is an “opportunity and responsibility” for Democrats to “become more aggressive” heading into 2024, he said late Thursday at a Hilton hotel after the debate.

“That’s not just the job of the White House, that’s the job of the Democratic Party. That’s why I went with Fox,” Newsom said. “People don’t go there for a reason… But we have to. We have no choice. We have to go. We have to tell the truth. We have to be in that platform.”

Although he said he personally had “nothing to lose,” Newsom acknowledged that he had to “fight his way” through a blatantly biased format to penetrate what he sees as a system of disinformation harmful to democracy.

But it wasn’t all that serious.

“That was a lot of fun,” Newsom told reporters before calling it a day. “I really enjoyed it.”

Times writer Jenny Jarvie contributed to this report.


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