In what Fox News is calling a "red vs. blue state debate" and the rest of us are calling a newly discovered circle of hell, it appears we have a date and venue for the promised showdown between Republican presidential candidate and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom of California.
It will be on Nov. 30, and it will be aired on ... Fox News’ “Hannity” show. Well, at least nobody has to worry about whether it will be an appropriately neutral setting for a debate. The answer is no, it won’t be a bit neutral, and if host Sean Hannity scuttles around the stage on all fours trying to bite Newsom’s ankles the whole time, it wouldn't be terribly out of character. A faux-debate hosted by one of the most dishonest hosts on the network: Won't that be fun?
As to how all of this came about, it's been goaded into existence largely by Newsom. He's been attempting to be a thorn in Republican sides in general, but has aimed much of his ire at DeSantis in particular, punching back against the incessant Republican use of "California" as stand-in for all the woes the right claims ail America, from too much immigration to too much education to too much basic decency. Newsom has been prodding DeSantis for a debate for a year now, and he proposed this very arrangement. Hannity cornered DeSantis on live television in August, challenging him to agree, and DeSantis was all but obligated to give in.
But as for the why of the debate, the motive is pure self-promotion on all sides. Newsom has plain presidential ambitions and has been goading Republican attacks precisely so he can offer news-making responses. Hannity would sell his own mother for another point of ratings. And DeSantis? As a presidential candidate, DeSantis is in big, big trouble. He's had to scale back campaign operations, his chances of making it even through Iowa are getting sketchier, and above all, he's got the charisma of microwaved fish.
There's a very good chance that this "debate" doesn't happen, even now that DeSantis has agreed to it. Newsom has him outmatched on a debate stage, even with a hostile audience in place, and there's a serious risk of DeSantis looking like a clown if the night doesn't go perfectly—something he can under no circumstances afford.
It's also not clear DeSantis will still be a viable presidential candidate by Nov. 30, as his campaign sinks slowly around him. That would change the dynamics considerably.
In any event, for now we all have to live with the news that Sean Freaking Hannity will be the host of a supposed "debate" between DeSantis and his tormenter, Newsom, and that there's very little chance this doesn't end up a train wreck for at least two of the three people involved. We could also point out here that Newsom keeps breaking the first rule of Democrats and Fox News, which is that he shouldn't be letting Fox News gain legitimacy as a "real" news outlet by appearing on it at all.
Appearing on the network in a way that gives Hannity publicity and supposed legitimacy is even worse. But Newsom hasn't been listening to us on this, so here we are.
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