Ron DeSantis and Gavin Newsom debate

On Thursday night, Governors Ron DeSantis from Florida and Gavin Newsom from California found themselves in a debate so engaging that they spontaneously decided to extend their discussion beyond the original plan.

Nearly an hour and a half into the debate, the host from Fox News, Sean Hannity, hinted it was time to conclude. However, seeing an opportunity for more dialogue, he suggested they could fill his show’s remaining time with additional questions.

“Let’s just go for another hour. I’m up for it,” Newsom responded.

Before cutting to a commercial, Hannity excitedly announced that the debate would go on, thanks to the governors’ willingness to continue. Yet, when the show returned, Hannity informed viewers that both participants had prior commitments to attend to, leading to the end of the debate.

The public didn’t see the tension off-camera. DeSantis and Newsom, who often criticize each other from their respective political stances, were part of a debate that was less friendly behind the scenes. This event was particularly significant as it gave a glimpse into what a future debate might look like, especially since DeSantis is in the running for the presidential primary but not leading.

NBC News reported that there were considerable disagreements off-camera, not visible to the audience. Both the DeSantis and Newsom teams accused each other of not sticking to the agreed-upon rules, such as maintaining a specific distance from the candidates and their guests.

From the DeSantis side, four people shared that Jennifer Siebel Newsom, Gavin Newsom’s wife, entered the debate area to express concerns on at least two occasions.

Moreover, she approached the stage during the break after the debate’s extension was agreed upon, and decisively ended the debate by declaring, “We’re done,” representing her husband’s decision to conclude their participation.

“Gavin Newsom got beat so badly last night his wife literally had to throw in the towel for him. It was embarrassing,” DeSantis spokesman Andrew Romeo said.

Jennifer Siebel Newsom raised concerns during the debate, notably when Governor Ron DeSantis mentioned her father. DeSantis shared a story claiming her father moved from California to Florida, praising Florida’s governance.

Despite suggestions that Siebel Newsom influenced the debate’s end, a Newsom aide clarified the decision was mutual. Both teams expressed concerns when the moderator, Sean Hannity, proposed extending the debate, indicating discomfort with the extension among staffers from both sides.

Governor Newsom, in a post-debate briefing, explained the reluctance to prolong the debate was due to panic from both camps, as each governor had subsequent engagements.

Additionally, the Newsom team alleged DeSantis engaged in several off-limits discussions with his wife, Casey DeSantis, and a staffer, which Fox News reportedly intervened in only after the Newsom team complained. (Fox News denied any intervention was necessary.) Casey DeSantis was also said to have entered the debate area multiple times.

The contention also extended to DeSantis reportedly having a teleprompter in his line of sight that displayed upcoming questions from Hannity, an advantage Newsom did not have. Fox News refuted this claim, insisting neither candidate had prior access to the questions.

Dispute arose over DeSantis’ use of visual aids during the debate, which Newsom’s team argued violated pre-agreed rules. However, Fox News responded that the term “props” was not specifically discussed before the debate; the agreement was to avoid multimedia productions.

Nathan Click, a spokesperson for Newsom, insinuated that Hannity might have tried to sway the debate in DeSantis’ favor at various points throughout the evening.

“As DeSantis did worse and worse, Sean Hannity tried harder and harder to rehabilitate him,” Click said, adding, “Gavin Newsom crushed Ron DeSantis deep on his home turf.”

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