Florida Newspaper Mocks Ron DeSantis’ Debate Performance

The Miami Herald‘s editorial board said Florida Governor Ron DeSantis was like a “teacher’s pet” during the Republican’s debate against Democratic California Governor Gavin Newsom on Thursday evening.

The unusual event, moderated by Fox News host Sean Hannity, touched on everything from abortion policies to the governors’ COVID-19 responses, with both DeSantis and Newsom frequently interrupting each other during a chaotic 90 minutes. The debate came as DeSantis’ bid for president has struggled, particularly against front-runner Donald Trump, and the stakes were high for the governor less than seven weeks until Republican primary voters head to the Iowa caucuses.

The Miami Herald said DeSantis was set up for success from the beginning of the debate, with conservative moderator Hannity handing him “softballs” while Newsom was hit with the loaded questions. But even with the added boost, the newspaper said, there was no clear winner Thursday night.

Florida Newspaper Mocks Ron DeSantis' Debate Performance
People watch a debate between California Gov. Gavin Newsom and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis during a watch party at Manny’s on November 30, 2023 in San Francisco, California. The Miami Herald’s editorial board mocked DeSantis’ performance on Thursday, saying that he was treated like a “teacher’s pet” by Fox News host Sean Hannity, who moderated the event.
Justin Sullivan

“Like a student whose grades are heading south, Gov. Ron DeSantis needed this bonus debate with Newsom for extra credit,” read the editorial board’s op-ed published Thursday night. “And he got an A, but only because he was the teacher’s pet all along.”

The Herald went on: “As moderator, Hannity gave Florida’s governor all the love. He asked Newsom loaded questions. The host presented crime, education and homelessness stats that made California look pretty bad. He accused California schools of letting students read LGBTQ pornography, and as Newsom tried to respond, Hannity let DeSantis swoop in for the kill.”

Newsweek reached out to DeSantis’ campaign via email for comment.

Hannity told Newsweek before Thursday’s event that he planned to stay out of either participant’s way, saying, “I really don’t want to be a hall monitor. I’m going to avoid the bells and whistles.”

Newsom has been touted as a potential Democratic presidential candidate, although not in 2024, he has said. During the debate, he reiterated his support for President Joe Biden’s reelection campaign. The California governor also mocked DeSantis’ struggling presidential campaign during his opening remarks, saying that the two political rivals had one thing in common: “Neither of us will be the nominee for our party in 2024.”

The Herald op-ed said: “Florida’s governor needed an outright win to, perhaps, persuade both solid Trumpers and Never Trumpers to give him a second look before the Jan. 15 Iowa caucuses kick off the Republican primary season.

“His poll numbers have tanked, his campaign is imploding and some polls have former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley looking at DeSantis in her rear-view mirror. Plus, Donald Trump is way out ahead of them both.”

DeSantis was at one point considered Trump’s closest competitor for the 2024 GOP nomination, but the former president has enjoyed a hefty double-digit lead for months, even without attending the primary debates. The Herald noted that DeSantis was “much more in his element” on Thursday than when trying to stand out from “a gaggle of fellow Republicans on the debate stage.”

Trump supporters, meanwhile, belittled the Florida governor on social media Thursday for taking on Newsom at all.

“He’s just not resonating,” the Herald said about DeSantis. “Not his ‘war on woke’ in Florida, not his blood-thirsty rhetoric — ‘slitting throats’?! — not his transparent attempts to pretend he likes people. He’s trailing Trump by at least 35 points.”

One of DeSantis’ biggest GOP champions, Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds, said that she thought Thursday night was a win for the Florida governor, telling Fox News on Friday that “the momentum is great.”

“What we saw last night, it showed that he’s a fighter, he’s a winner, that conservative policies work,” said Reynolds, who endorsed DeSantis for president last month.