Will debate with California Gov. Gavin Newsom help the presidential campaign of Gov. Ron DeSantis?

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Ron DeSantis
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis talks on the phone with President Joe Biden as he stands outside storm-damaged restaurant Shrimp Boat during a visit to Horseshoe Beach, Fla., one day after the passage of Hurricane Idalia, Thursday, Aug. 31, 2023. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)

By Jim Turner ©2023 The News Service of Florida
Backroom Briefing: Looking for Attention
Weekly political notes from The News Service of Florida

TALLAHASSEE — Gov. Ron DeSantis envisions a debate this month with California Gov. Gavin Newsom will draw interest for his presidential campaign and away from the legal problems of former President Donald Trump.

DeSantis said during an appearance on the PBD Podcast that Trump’s issues have “drowned out a lot of stuff” in the Republican presidential primary and the Nov. 30 debate with Newsom will “get a lot of attention.”

“I want a forum to be able to articulate my message. It is not a debate about California versus Florida, because that debate is over,” DeSantis told podcast host Patrick Bet-David. “People have voted with their feet. They’ve left California in record numbers. They’ve moved to Florida in record numbers. What it is a debate on is about the future of the country. So, California represents the petri dish of American leftism. They’re five years ahead of whatever (President Joe) Biden’s people are cooking up in D.C.”

Newsom has gloated that he baited DeSantis into agreeing to take time out of the GOP primary campaign to debate “a guy who isn’t even running for president.”

“The fact that he took the bait in relation to this debate shows that he’s completely unqualified to be president of the United States,” Newsom said Sept. 27 on FOX 11 in Los Angeles.

The two governors have repeatedly used each other as foils on issues such as guns, abortion, immigration and the economy.

As he was pressed by Bet-David, DeSantis said Democrats could still discard Biden as their 2024 candidate for Newsom, Vice President Kamala Harris or someone else.

The debate with Newsom, which will be held in Georgia and moderated by Fox News host Sean Hannity, “may get more viewers than the last Fox (Republican presidential) debate did, that we did at the Reagan library,” DeSantis said.

MISSED OPPORTUNITY?

Bet-David’s wide-ranging podcast touched on DeSantis’ workout music, the social-media fascination with his boots and a “missed opportunity” on sales and promotions of the governor’s memoir, “The Courage to Be Free: Florida’s Blueprint for America’s Revival.”

DeSantis received $1.25 million last year from HarperCollins Publishers for the book, which spent two weeks atop the New York Times best-sellers list. Bet-David surmised it should have been longer. The list reflects sales in a given week, not total sales.

“I didn’t really have a marketing team. I mean, you know you’re doing it and people sell it or they don’t sell it,” DeSantis said.

He added, “I was also in the midst of the legislative session. I had a lot on my plate and we were doing a lot of stuff.”

Before he formally announced his presidential run, DeSantis used the book to make spring appearances in places that ranged from early primary states to the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, Calif.

Bet-David also raised a question about the impact of Trump’s endorsement on DeSantis’ election as governor in 2018. Trump backed DeSantis during a Republican primary contest with then-Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam.

DeSantis, apparently ignoring the primary in his response, focused on his general election win over Democrat Andrew Gillum and brought up his dominating re-election win over Charlie Crist in 2022.

“The test of that is I won by 34,000 with his endorsement,” DeSantis said of the victory over GIllum. “And four years later, he (Trump) attacked me three days before the election, (and) I won by 1.5 million votes.”

Bet-David brought up a high-profile ad released during the final weeks of the 2018 primary against Putnam, who was widely considered the front-runner before Trump backed DeSantis. The ad featured DeSantis reading Trump’s “Art of the Deal” to one child and encouraging another to “build the wall” with toy blocks.

DeSantis said he “would have won” without the Trump endorsement.

“Because, here’s the thing, if you look at the voters who opposed me the first time versus the voters who then supported me the next time, the number one reason they flipped from against to for in four years was Trump,” DeSantis claimed. “Trump was a factor in 2018. It didn’t matter what I did. They were going to vote against me.”

STEPPING UP SECURITY

Unspecified enhanced security measures will be in place in the Capitol area when lawmakers return for a special legislative session next week.

“While there are no known, specific threats at this time, these new security measures will be in effect when we return for special session and throughout committee weeks and session,” House Speaker Paul Renner, R-Palm Coast, said in a letter to House members and staff.

The changes come as the Israel-Hamas war increases global tensions and because of a person briefly gaining access to a loading-zone area on Oct. 17. The person reportedly impersonated a construction worker.

“The foreman on site immediately contacted Capitol Police, and he was removed from the construction area,” Renner wrote. “He never entered the Capitol building. Nevertheless, this individual was subsequently arrested for trespass because he entered a restricted construction zone without authorization.”

SOCIAL MEDIA POST OF THE WEEK

“As predicted. Ashley has become Ron’s lackey and has sold her soul. Disgraceful.” — Florida Democratic Party Chairwoman Nikki Fried (@NikkiFried) responding to a brief filed by Attorney General Ashley Moody’s office contending “executive privilege” shields Gov. Ron DeSantis’ administration from releasing records.

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