Why on earth did Ron DeSantis think it was a good idea to debate Gavin Newsom?

  • Ron DeSantis squared off against Gavin Newsom on Thursday night in a pointless debate.

  • It's difficult to accurately say who "won" a debate, but the night didn't go smoothly for DeSantis.

  • The Florida governor's calculated risk agreeing to the debate didn't seem to pay off.

There's nothing people love more than watching a likely catastrophe live.

Case in point: around 40,000 Texans lined up to watch two trains crash into each other in 1896 for a marketing ploy by the Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railroad that ended in death and disaster.

Similarly, on Thursday night, millions tuned into or watched highlights of an unnecessary debate between Republican presidential candidate and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and California Gov. Gavin Newsom.

No humans died on Thursday — unlike the "Crash at Crush" — but the night was still a trainwreck for DeSantis' presidential campaign from the very beginning.

"There's one thing, in closing, that we have in common," Newsom noted in his opening statement, "is neither of us will be the nominee for our party in 2024."

Realistically, DeSantis had the upper hand from the start: the debate was held in Georgia (much closer to his home state than California), hosted by conservative news outlet Fox News, and moderated by one of its most tenured right-wing presenters, Sean Hannity.

Debates, truthfully, can be tricky to pick a "winner" for. Following the first GOP presidential debate this year, Business Insider and several other outlets called Vivek Ramaswamy a breakout star after commanding attention away from his competitors.

But after the dust had settled, polling showed that Ramaswamy's performance — despite being attention-grabbing and Trump-like — may have actually hurt how potential voters viewed him.

Unlike the Republican presidential debates, there likely weren't any pre-and-post-debate polls from the Newsom-DeSantis clash. And while each base will surely view the debates from differing perspectives, it's hard to imagine many potential voters were won over by DeSantis explicitly saying it's "not true" that he's followed "science" and "facts" during his time in office.

All Newsom seemed to do at the debate was highlight DeSantis' actions and policies during his time in congressional and state leadership, but it was more than enough to send the Florida governor into a series of grimaces and uncomfortably forced smiles.

So why on earth would DeSantis agree to a debate like this in the first place?

The likeliest reason is that despite being in second place in the GOP presidential primary polling, DeSantis is nearly 50 percentage points behind former President Donald Trump.

Barring Trump going to prison before the 2024 election, which could happen given the 91 felony charges levied against him in jurisdictions across the country, it's pretty much an insurmountable hurdle to overcome.

With this in mind, DeSantis and his campaign likely saw the debate similar to how an NFL team views a "hail mary" pass at the end of a close game: highly improbable it'll work out for the best, but if it does, everyone involved comes out as a hero.

Unfortunately for DeSantis, the legacy of Thursday night's debate likely won't be about how the Florida governor turned his flopping campaign around against all odds.

Instead, cringeworthy images, GIFs, and videos from the evening may come back to haunt him for the rest of this presidential campaign and possibly even in 2028 if he decides to run again too, especially if Newsom runs as well.

Read the original article on Business Insider