OAKLAND, Calif. - Two governors from opposite coasts and opposite sides of the political spectrum clashed Thursday in a prime-time debate.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis took their long-running feud to a face-off in Fox News' "The Great Red State vs. Blue State Debate," hosted by Sean Hannity.
Both men came out swinging.
"You almost have to try to mess California up, and that’s what Gavin Newsom has done since he’s been governor," said DeSantis.
"One thing that we have in common, neither of us will be the nominee for our party in 2024," Newsom said in his opening statement.
It was an unusual match-up between a Republican presidential candidate and a Democratic governor who is a major surrogate for President Biden.
The 90-minute debate saw several moments of the governors hurling insults and yelling over each other. At one point, even arguing about who is the bigger bully.
Their polar opposite approaches to governing are clearly evident in how each leader handled the pandemic.
California had some of the toughest restrictions and was the first state to issue a "stay at home" order. DeSantis was quick to reopen schools and businesses.
"If I had your policies, the equivalent of ten 9/11s, tens of thousands of people, lost their lives," said Newsom. "And for what, Ron?"
"Gavin Newsom did huge damage to people in California," said DeSantis. "He ruined livelihoods, we reopened the state very quickly."
On the topic of homelessness, federal data shows California has an unhoused population rate more than three times that of Florida.
"It’s caused a huge problem with quality of life in California," said DeSantis. "The people that flee always bring up, they really empower lawlessness and drug use."
Newsom went on the defense by touting the programs and money the state is investing in the issue.
"We’re investing unprecedented resources, more accountability, we’ve gotten 68,000 people off the streets."
The political foes sparred over topics like the border, crime, education, gun safety, taxes and abortion.
"He decided to sign a six-week ban, before women even know they’re pregnant, Ron," said Newsom. "Before women can even access a doctor's appointment."
Newsom pushed, asking DeSantis if he would support a federal ban on abortion if elected President. DeSantis did not answer the question directly.
"I believe in a culture of life," said DeSantis. "I think we’re better off when everybody counts, when everybody has an opportunity to do well."
Newsom made clear he was participating in the debate to defend President Biden's record.
California's governor was also looking to raise his own national profile as DeSantis looks to jump start his campaign.
The men drew sharp contrast to each other and the liberal and conservative policies in their states.
"You’re trolling folks and trying to find migrants to play political games so you can out-Trump Trump," said Newsom. "How’s that going for you Ron? You’re down 41 points in your own home state."
"This is a slick, slippery politician, whose state is failing, people are leaving, and he’s trying to run interference for his failures.," responded DeSantis.