Style vs. substance.

If nothing else, last night’s debate between Florida governor Ron DeSantis and California governor Gavin Newsom provided a microcosmic view of the state of play in American politics.

For those of sufficient age, last night’s debate might possibly evoke memories of the Kennedy-Nixon debate in 1960 – the first presidential debate to be televised. Last night in the role of telegenic and glibly articulate John F. Kennedy you had Gavin Newsom. In the role of straight-faced policy wonk Richard Nixon, you had Ron DeSantis.

Style very clearly won over substance in 1960. Kennedy’s youthful appearance coupled with his easiness in front of a camera very likely made the critical difference in what was a very tight election.

The same thing might happen 64 years later if by some twist of events Gavin Newsom winds up as the Democratic nominee in place of an increasingly wobbly Joe Biden. Gavin Newsom is wrong on everything that matters. But he’s good looking and articulate and for many voters, that’s enough.

There is little doubt that Gavin Newsom looks in the bathroom mirror every morning and sees a president looking back at him. The advancement of that aspiration was his reason for agreeing to be there last night.

Ron DeSantis desperately needs a shot of adrenalin for his flagging campaign. Such was his clear motivation for showing up.

Last night’s debate was billed as the “Red State vs. Blue State Debate.” For the life of me, and given that premise, I cannot figure out what exactly it is that’s debatable. By every objective measure, the Red State policies of Ron DeSantis run circles around the Blue State policies of Gavin Newsom.

The numbers tell the story.

  • Between July 2019 and July 2022, the latest period for which there are figures, more than a million Californians decamped for other states. During that same time, nearly three quarters of a million people moved to Florida.
  • According to the latest IRS data, between 2019 and 2021 California lost $55.7 billion in adjusted gross income due to people leaving the state. In that same period, Florida gained $80.6 billion due to people moving into the state.
  • The unemployment rate in California is the second highest in the nation at 4.8 percent. Florida’s unemployment rate is roughly half that at just 2.8 percent.
  • State and local taxes come to just over $10,000 per person in California. In Florida, state and local taxes are just over $5,400 per person.
  • California has a $31.5 billion budget deficit. Florida has a $17.7 billion surplus.
  • On substance, DeSantis’s red state model beats Newsom’s blue state model hands down. On substance, it’s not even close.

But if substance were all that matters, last night’s debate would never have happened and Donald Trump would still be president.

Assuming that despite his best efforts DeSantis won’t be the Republican nominee, last night’s debate is a microcosm. It shows us that style is Gavin Newsom’s (and the Democrats’) only path to victory and Donald Trump’s (and the Republicans’) only path to defeat.

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Paul Gleiser

Paul L. Gleiser is president of ATW Media, LLC, licensee of radio stations KTBB 97.5 FM/AM600, 92.1 The TEAM FM in Tyler-Longview, Texas.

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15 Responses

  1. Linda E. Montrose says:

    I remember the Kennedy/Nixon debates and you did hit the nail on the head about looks verses substance where that was concerned. But where newsom and Ron DeSantis are concerned I will take Ron DeSantis any day of the week! newsom reminds me of a poison snake such as a Copperhead or a rattlesnake! The snakes are pretty to look at but best to steer clear of.
    We have seen what has happened to California, the dems have made it a place few people want to stay in so they are moving here to Texas, Florida and other states more to their liking. BUT the thing about it they are bringing their politics with them!
    Personally, I don’t find ANYTHING about newsom to like.

  2. Troy Forbus says:

    The portion of the “debate” I watched had Newson claim that Florida had banned over 1300 books. Does anyone know what he’s braying about? I only know of about 2 dozen books restricted to locations NOT schools and not banned at all.

  3. Buddy Saunders says:

    I did watch the debate.

    I was with you in your analysis until I came to your concluding paragraph: “Assuming that despite his best efforts DeSantis won’t be the Republican nominee, last night’s debate is a microcosm. It shows us that style is Gavin Newsom’s (and the Democrats’) only path to victory and Donald Trump’s (and the Republicans’) only path to defeat.”

    I am missing your meaning here. Please clarify. Are you suggesting that both Newsom and Trump are glib and all style, and that Newsom’s style and glibness would Trump trump in the presidential election?

    • Paul Gleiser says:

      No, Buddy, that’s not what I’m saying. Newsom is pretty and articulate and exceptionally good at plucking a minor detail out of a large body of unpleasant facts and using that minor detail to redirect what would otherwise be, for him, an uncomfortable line of discussion. Newson is glib and telegenic and slippery.

      Trump is none of those things. Legitimate criticism of Trump’s personal style notwithstanding, Trump is articulate but not glib. He’s not telegenic. And he’s not slippery.

      I’m saying that on substance Trump (and by extension, the Republicans) clearly win. The facts were on the side of DeSantis last night. They facts are on the side of Trump regarding his policy record. The facts are on the side of the Republican Party.

      It is only on style that Democrats can win. They cannot win on substance. It is only on style that Republicans can lose. They cannot lose on substance.

      If style trumps substance — and though it shouldn’t, it could — the Democrats can win. Style is, in fact, the Democrats’ only hope.

      • Buddy Saunders says:

        Paul, thank you for the very clarification. This time I certainly do get what you are saying, and I totally agree.

        Regarding last night’s debate, by any measure DeSantis was the clear winner, but he enjoyed a tremendous advantage. Having truth on your side makes winning a snap. As was made clear in the debate, DeSantis, while serving as governor of Florida, has been doing all the things that are causing Californians to move to Florida in droves. On the other hand, Newsome has likewise been doing all the things that are making Californians move to Florida.

        Last evening it was great fun watching Newsom weasel around the facts and statistics that reflect so badly on his woke agenda. As much fun as that was, even more so than the DeSantis/Newsom debate, I Look forward to sitting down with a bowl of buttered popcorn and watching a Biden/Trump debate! That would truly be something to see!

  4. Greg R says:

    Buddy, you have my total respect. You are a better man than I. I tried to watch it on YouTube but honestly I could only take about 10 minutes of it. Nosense reminds me of pencil neck Schiff. He couldn’t even lie with a straight face.

  5. Chris Clarke says:

    Neither substance or style matter as proven by the election of Biden, Hobbs and Fetterman.

  6. Darrell Durham says:

    I could only tolerate about 15 minutes of Newsom’s ego. The Democrats actually believe we are so stupid we can’t be trusted to make our own decisions between right and wrong, truth or lies, so they must tell us, repeatedly. Democrats are right, Republicans are wrong. The problem is that the country is full of stupid people.

    • Mike says:

      Amen Darrell. I once had the naive thought that the electorate was not as dumb as the media portrays. Boy O Boy was I wrong.
      Many are herd animals following along just to get along with no individual thought or critical thinking. The one demographic group that confounds me more than all are the Jewish community and how they can consistently vote Democrat year in and year out. Voting for Gavin Newsome and his way of governing; a.k.a. Democrat, is nothing short of insane. Once again, I keep telling myself, surely these people can see the destruction the Democrats are dealing our major cities and the states they occupy? Heck no! As Bo Pilgrim once said, “It’s a mind boggling thang!”

      • Buddy Saunders says:

        I, too, am puzzled and confounded by Jews voting as they do. If they continue to vote progressive woke, it will look more and more like a cultural death wish.

  7. C M Solomon says:

    I am so fed up with the attention on appearance, good looks, and smooth body and verbal language with fake sincerity of the demons that are taking this country to ultimate destruction as they sweet talk their utter foolishness while spouting lie upon lie with impunity as a ADVANTAGE that we Patriots must be able to be able to overcome in order to win the salvation of the country from the Marxist tyranny that knocks at the door. Let the Hollywood STYLE be damned when SUBSTANCE based on historical truth is ALL that matters if we as a nation are to survive the articulate demons that seem to get such unearned attention as we crash towards bankruptcy, total moral decay, and loss of sovereignty with a government sponsored and accelerating massive invasion from all of the hellhole countries from all over the earth. Does anyone remember the prophetic book “Slouching Towards Gomorrah”? Why this preoccupation with STYLE? Are we as a country THAT shallow and stupid?

    • Buddy Saunders says:

      Yes, I do remember “Slouching Towards Gomorrah” by Robert H. Bork. I have a copy. He, unlike the newest female member of the Supreme Court, was capable of defining what a woman was. Never was there a man more deserving of being on the Supreme Court.

      Those who are attracted to shallowness over substance are themselves shallow and when they vote, they often end up doing a disservice to their country.

  8. Darrell Durham says:

    Biden said today that he wouldn’t be running except for the fact Trump is running, and that “We cannot let him win!”, obviously feeling he gives the Democrats their best chance at victory. I say we must not allow Trump to be defeated!

  9. C M Solomon says:

    I am afraid that the question “Are we as a country THAT shallow and stupid?’ has been answered as reported by the Washington Examiner yesterday as follows:

    “In a poll sparked by New York City’s move to tear down statues of George Washington and Christoper Columbus, more Democrats believe that 81-year-old Biden is a better president than America’s first chief executive.”

    The Marxist Media Propaganda Machine has learned how to make insanity popular. It is easy when the so-called Patriot leaders are afraid to expose their wicked deception with ferocity, conviction and truth.

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