The two governors traded barbs on various issues throughout the 90-minute debate, including the economy, inflation, the border, and crime.
Newsom took a shot at DeSantis, saying that neither of them will be the nominee for president in 2024. While Newsom is not running on the Democratic side, DeSantis is sitting in second in the Republican primary but trails the front-runner, former President Donald Trump, by a wide margin.
During a question about immigration, Newsom compared DeSantis to Trump and then pointed out how far he trails in the polls.
"I support border security. I think the asylum system is broken. I'm the only guy here who is a border state governor. You're trolling folks and trying to find migrants to play political games to try and get some news and attention so you can out-Trump Trump," Newsom said.
"And by the way, how's that going for you, Ron? You're down 41 points in your own home state," he added.
DeSantis countered by accusing Newsom of lying about what was happening at the southern border.
"You're just making things up," DeSantis said.
"I'll tell you what, it's deja vu all over again with that flurry of lies. This is a guy that says the Biden administration is not lying to the public about the border. They go to the White House briefing room every day. They say the border is secure. They are lying to you," DeSantis added.
He also claimed that Democrats want an open border.
"This is the vision of Biden-Harris-Newsom: Open borders, Americans suffer, and Americans continue to die because of fentanyl overdoses. There will be, unfortunately, a terrorist attack at some point that we'll be able to trace back to our southern border," DeSantis added.
The two also sparred over the issue of crime and homelessness. DeSantis ripped into Newsom about the decline of San Francisco and Los Angeles and said that people are leaving California "in droves."
"In a lot of these places in California, everything is under lock and key because they've basically legalized retail theft. They have chosen, in California, to put the interests of criminals over public safety," he said.
"They're easier on all these crimes that lead to a collapse in the quality of life."
Newsom argued that California has made great strides in dealing with crime and the homeless population.
"We've gotten 68,000 people off the streets, close to 6000 encampments, we've got off the streets. We've also invested in unprecedented resources in reforming our behavioral health system," Newsom said. "Ron has literally the worst mental health system in America, forgive me, outside of Mississippi and Texas."
The two governors also sparred after Newsom called California a "freedom state."
DeSantis interjected and mocked California.
"Gavin Newsom, at one point tried to say that California was the freedom state. I just kind of laugh like you're locking people down, you're doing all this, but then I thought about it: California does have freedoms," DeSantis said.
"California does have freedoms that some people don't, that other states don't. You have the freedom to defecate in public. In California, you have the freedom to pitch a tent on Sunset Boulevard. You have the freedom to create a homeless encampment under a freeway and even light it on fire. You have the freedom to have an open-air drug market and use drugs. You have a freedom if you're an illegal alien to get all these taxpayer benefits. So those are freedoms. They're not the freedoms our founding fathers envisioned, but they have contributed to the destruction of the quality of life in California, and the results speak for themselves."
Newsom countered by bashing some of DeSantis' efforts to restrict what can be taught in classrooms.
"Here's a guy who's criminalizing teachers, criminalizing doctors, criminalizing librarians, and criminalizing women that seek their reproductive care," Newsom said. "You're making it harder to vote. You're banning books. I mean, spare me this notion of freedom."