A Newsom-DeSantis debate wouldn’t be a sideshow. It could be something much bigger | Opinion

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

The debate between California Gov. Gavin Newsom and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is on. On Wednesday, Fox News’ Sean Hannity gave the Florida presidential candidate an offer on live television he literally could not refuse: a stage with Newsom.

“Gavin made the offer, your answer is . . .” asked Hannity on his show.

There was brief silence and a frozen smile from DeSantis.

“Absolutely, I’m game,” he said. “Tell me when and where. We’ll do it.”

It was destiny. And it also happens to be the right thing to do.

If American politics were a high school, the senior class is either stumbling at speeches, freezing in mid-sentence, being coached how to vote or getting indicted.

President Biden’s footwork after speaking to the Air Force Academy graduates was painful. The 16 excruciating seconds of silence from Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, only to turn away from reporters in retreat, showed a similar level of command. California Sen. Dianne Feinstein, shielded from public view until it is inevitable in a Senate meeting, appears barely able to perform her duties.

And then there is the bully of the senior class, Donald Trump, whose tactics are finally catching up to him. Just hours after Hannity coaxed a “yes” out of DeSantis for the debate with Newsom, Trump was in a Washington D.C. federal court to hear the latest charges against him, this time for his role in intervening in the 2020 presidential election process.

The junior class, the land of vice presidents current and former, is not receiving its traditional due respect.

Polling on Vice President Kamala Harris reveals a public that, for whatever the reasons, does not hold her in high regard. A majority of those surveyed consistently rate her as unpopular.

Former Trump Vice President Mike Pence, meanwhile, has spectacular name recognition, along with single-digit support for his presidential candidacy. Any further dipping in the polls, and Pence risks losing invitations to future Republican debates that provide his only chance at a rally.

This leaves the sophomore class to prepare for the jump to varsity. In other words, this leaves Gavin Newsom. And Ron DeSantis.

Sophomores tend to stick together, and Newsom and DeSantis have done so in their unique political glue. From social media rants to DeSantis’ migrant airlifts to Sacramento to Newsom’s musings about resulting charges of kidnapping, each uses the other to seek the public’s attention.

They need to be the undisputed leaders of the sophomore class — but for different reasons.

DeSantis is trailing in the polls as he faces a party electorate that, for now, remains steadfast with Trump. It may be impossible for the former president to avoid his day of reckoning in one court or another before the election. Perhaps the enormity of the mounting charges against him will break his hold on the party.

Newsom, America’s presidential candidate in waiting, has been hounding DeSantis for a debate ever since his own appearances with Hannity. Officially, the governor fully respects his Democratic Party’s organizational chart, with Biden as its undisputed leader seeking re-election next year. Newsom’s behavior, from proposing a constitutional amendment to fight gun violence to campaigning in Republican-held states across the country, reveals his national political ambitions.

The California governor is proposing a 90-minute debate, with the first speaker decided by coin toss. Neither participant can bring notes, but both can bring a blank notepad and pen to their podium.

The theater of this all but feels pre-ordained. This is also deadly serious.

One of these two sophomores could be our next president. The senior class is a mess. The juniors appear to have risen to their career pinnacles. And Americans of both parties may be searching for a new leader in the coming months for very different reasons.

Bring on the debate, whenever and wherever. It’s only the future of the country that may be at stake.

Tom Philp is a Pulitzer Prize-winning editorial writer and columnist for The Sacramento Bee.

Philp
Philp