Fox News stacked the deck against Gavin Newsom in his Thursday night debate with Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, moderated by Fox News host Sean Hannity, but a calm, collected Newsom scored the night’s best zingers.

We watched Thursday night’s Fox News Great Red vs. Blue State Debate pitting California Governor Gavin Newsom against Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, on the extremely high likelihood that you did not watch it. It was sort of a “kid’s table” debate, between two men who would love to be their party’s 2024 presidential nominee, but will almost certainly not be.

And being broadcast on Fox News, it was definitely a two-on-one, ganging-up debate, as the brazenly partisan moderator Sean Hannity framed nearly every question as an outright attack on California while flatteringly pumping up the state of Florida. (How biased of a host was Hannity? He started one question with the phase, “Joe Biden has experienced what I believe to be significant cognitive decline….”)

Image via Fox News

But Newsom showed himself to be a damned fine debater, unflappable in the partisan onslaught, and excellent at not answering questions he preferred to avoid. Though he oddly looked more tan than usual, and may have had some sort of lip gloss on. Though he, Hannity, and DeSantis had all hit the cake make-up pretty hard, and maybe that’s just a requirement for an-air personalities at the extremely cosmetics-conscious Fox News Channel.

Academy Award winners whose speeches go too long will take inspiration from Newsom’s long-windedness in the clip below. As Sean Hannity desperately tried to go to a commercial break, Newsom refused to stop talking, lecturing that DeSantis was to blame for “the thousands of lives that died unnecessarily because he played with the fringe of his party. And when it comes to the issue of schools, you better be careful. You had more learning loss during COVID than the national average and the state of California. It’s a fact. More learning loss. Your economy contracted more in 2020 and expanded slower than California in 2021. More to come on this topic.”

Later in the debate, Newsom stepped on Hannity again. When Hannity said at one point “We’re moving on to the next issue,” Newsom shot back “No Sean, not the next issue!”

But for Ron DeSantis, it was an opportunity to pretend for one night that he was a frontrunner in the presidential race. Well, up until the segment about busing migrants to blue states, when Newsom body-blowed him with the line “You’re trolling folks and trying to find migrants to play political games and try to get some news and attention so you can out-Trump Trump. And by the way, how’s that going for you, Ron? You’re down 41 points in your own home state.”

DeSantis’s tack was to just interrupt Newsom as much as possible, and when Newsom cited statistics, DeSantis would just say he was lying (“You’re just jabbering.”) DeSantis also relied upon wholly unprovable stories of SF cops or various constituents coming up to him and saying what a wonderful job he’s doing.

Though one of those anecdotes may have been true. “I was talking to a fellow who made the  move from California to Florida,” DeSantis said at one point. “He was telling me that Florida is much better governed, safer, better budget, lower taxes, all this stuff. And then he paused and said 'Oh, by the way, I’m Gavin Newsom’s father-in-law.'” (This is likely a reference to his ex-wife Kimberly Guilfoyle’s father.)

Hannity made much political hay of the so-called exodus of people from California to Florida, to which Newsom responded, “You mean the last two years, more Floridians going to California than Californians going to Florida?” (He is technically correct.) And when DeSantis hammered that Florida was more pro-business than California, Newsom zinged, “Is that what Disney’s saying?”

And yes, San Francisco got a few mentions. On the unflattering side Ron DeSantis busted out the poop map. “This is an app where they plot the human feces that are found on the streets of San Francisco. You see how almost the whole thing is covered,” DeSantis charged. “Except when a communist dictator comes to town. Then they cleaned up the streets. They lined the streets with Chinese flags, they didn’t put American flags there.”

But Newsom stuck up for San Francisco. “Go to places like Jacksonville, go to places like Orlando, go to places like Tampa. The murder rate’s off the charts compared to cities like San Francisco,” he said earlier in the debate.

People will argue over who “won” this debate, probably in a way that just confirms their prior convictions. But in terms of who showed themselves to be the alpha dog, consider this exchange before the debate’s final commercial break.

“I hope we can do another half hour. I’ve got all night,” Newsom said with swagger. “Let’s just do an extended hour. I’m happy to do it.”

But on return from that commercial break, Hannity just sheepishly and vaguely said, “By mutual agreement, both candidates had other commitments and they realized afterward they couldn't stay longer.”

Related: Gavin Newsom and Ron DeSantis Wage Taunting War as Florida Governor Calls SF a ‘Dumpster Fire’ [SFist

Image via Fox News