Red vs. Blue: The Florida/California Debate

Breaking down the DeSantis – Newsom debate.

Hunter Oswald 


It’s debate time once again. After months of tension, the showdown between two of America’s most prominent figures in contemporary American politics finally came to a head. On November 30, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and California Governor Gavin Newsom went head to head on Fox News, in what moderator Sean Hannity dubbed “The Great Red State vs Blue State Debate.”

For 90 minutes, each governor sought to defend their state’s record on a plethora of policy issues: taxes, abortion, crime, homelessness, jobs, and others. As the night progressed, DeSantis and Newsom sought to frame their state’s success as one predicated upon each’s governing philosophy. For DeSantis, Florida’s success has been grounded in embracing conservative ideals: “The choice for America is this, what Biden and Harris and Newsom want to do is take the California model and do that nationally. In Florida, we showed that conservative principles work. This country must choose freedom over failure.” 

On the contrary, Newsom framed his position as a full-fledged defense of California’s progressive model: “I’m here to tell the truth about the Biden-Harris record, and also compare and contrast Ron DeSantis’s record and the Republican Party’s record as a point of contrast that’s as different as daylight and darkness.


The Facts Do Not Lie

While the media paid close attention to each governor’s performance, as well as their presidential aspirations, the question of which governing philosophy has done more for human flourishing couldn’t have been clearer during the debate. While some would base the success of the debate around the performance of each state’s representative, the facts speak for themselves.



When looking at each state’s record on taxes, Florida is the clear winner. According to the Tax Foundation, California ranks 49th with the second worst rating when it comes to individual income taxes. Florida ranks 1st with the best record on individual income tax.


Homelessness/Affordable Housing

This is another area where Florida beats California. As the James Madison Institute states, “The median cost of a Florida home in April 2023 was $410,000. Meanwhile, average rent is $2,500 in Florida, compared to $2,796 in California.” The average cost of homes in California is $836,110 and is home to seven out of the top ten most expensive cities.

California continues to face a major homelessness crisis which has risen 25 percent under Newsom’s tenure, despite spending $20 billion to reduce homelessness. Meanwhile, Florida has seen a 46 percent decline in homelessness during the same time.



When looking at the crime rate of each state, Florida wins again. In 2022, the FBI reported that California’s violent crime rate (rape, murder, etc.) has spiked from 442 per 100,000 in 2020 to 499 per 100,000, and remains well above the national average. On the flip side, Florida’s violent crime rates have significantly decreased during the same time frame from 431 to 258.9 per 100,000.


Gas Prices

Between the two, Florida remains the clear winner. According to AAA, the national gas price average is $3.14. When comparing the two states, California has the highest national average retail price at $4.70 per gallon, while Florida’s average gas price is $2.96.


Economic Performance

In an unsurprising turn, California once again loses to Florida. According to the Tax Foundation’s 2024 State Business Tax Climate, Florida ranks 4th as the most tax-friendly environment for companies while California ranks 48th in the nation. Floridia’s economy in 2022 grew by 4 percent, nearly twice the rate as the national economic growth, and currently has one of the strongest labor markets in the country. California is currently facing one of the worst economic performances in the United States, stemming from its high tax rates and extensive regulations on businesses.


Freedom Over Failure

The verdict could not be any clearer. Florida’s record wins by a landslide against California’s failed system of governance. As the facts show, Florida’s success is superior to California’s model. The nature of Florida’s success should be an eye-opener for Americans. The success of Florida is the result of a conservative philosophy that seeks to put the people’s destiny into their own hands with a regime by recognizing and protecting the natural rights of its citizens. It reveals to us an essential axiom: the key to human flourishing does not come from the whims of ivory tower ideologues and state central planners but from the strong will and innovative spirit of a free people.

While some Americans may be swayed by the progressive argument that our system of governance is irredeemably broken, not all hope is lost. Today, we stand at the critical junction where we must decide the trajectory for our nation’s future—between the rule of self-anointed intelligentsia or remaining true to the ideals that have made America the nation it is today. If Americans are to seek greater levels of human flourishing and prosperity, we must embrace the ideals that seek to expand the individual’s potential to innovate and aspire to the virtues ingrained in our republic. It is time for Americans to finally choose freedom over failure.


About the Author 

Hunter Oswald is a senior student studying political science and minoring in economics as well as national security. Hunter is a staff writer for Cogitare Magazine and contributor for the Grove City College Collegian newspaper. He has previously been a member of the Grove City Debate Team. 

This past summer, Hunter Oswald interned at the American Spectator. Previously, he completed the Heritage Foundation’s Academy Program, where he studied numerous public policy issues and America’s foundational principles. He aspires to further use his research and analytical skills in helping to inform the public on policy issues that promote and advance America’s principles.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed are those of the writer alone. They do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grove City College, the Institute for Faith and Freedom, or their affiliates.