Last week’s Fox News debate between Ron DeSantis and Gavin Newsom revealed several inconvenient truths about California and Gavin Newsom. One is that California’s poorly designed economic policies have delivered record high housing costs and homelessness, high tax rates, high energy costs, and failing public schools, despite enormous school spending. Another is Newsom’s unwillingness—to the point of absurdity—to own any of those policy mistakes.

The debate began with Fox News host-turned-moderator Sean Hannity presenting a graph that showed California has been losing population to Florida. Hannity then asked DeSantis and Newsom to comment on California’s net outmigration to Florida. Newsom stated emphatically that California had reversed the outmigration trend in the previous two years, with California gaining more Floridians than the number of Californians lost to Florida.

“You mean the last two years, more Floridians going to California than Californians going to Florida?” Newsom said. “That’s going to be fun to fact-check,” he added with a smirk, suggesting not so subtly that the Fox News graph was misleading. And a bit later in the debate, Newsom stated, “We’ve already established that more people are moving from Florida to California.”

But California’s net population outflow has not reversed in the last two years, as Newsom claimed. The rate of California’s population outflow to Florida has in fact accelerated. In 2022, California had a net loss of 22,144 residents to Florida, up from 2021’s net loss of 12,772. Before Newsom became governor, the net outflow of Californians to Florida averaged about 5,000 residents per year.

These data on California’s population losses are well known. Since 2020, California’s population has declined by almost 500,000 residents, a statistic that has been reported by virtually every major media outlet. And on the day of the debate, the Sacramento Bee—the newspaper of record in California’s state capital—published a story with the headline: “Record number of people are fleeing California for Florida. Will DeSantis use it against Newsom?” He did. But the Sacramento Bee didn’t expect that Newsom would create his own narrative, a world that only Newsom seems to live in.

Just a few minutes into the 90-minute debate, it became obvious that Newsom was not going to acknowledge any fact that was a negative about California or his governorship. But there is a difference between ducking a fact, which is what politicians often do, and making up one’s own alternative universe and pretending that is the truth. The latter is what Newsom chose to do, and what he continued with for the remainder of the debate.

Next up was taxes. Newsom claimed Floridians pay higher taxes than Californians, with as much bravado and confidence as when he falsely claimed more Floridians were moving to California than vice versa. The Tax Foundation, a highly regarded nonpartisan research institution that studies national, state, and local tax policies, ranks California 48th worst in total taxes and 49th worst in income taxes. They rank Florida as fourth best in the country in terms of taxes. But this large discrepancy didn’t matter for Newsom.

To understand why the Tax Foundation ranks Florida highly, note that Florida has no income tax, it has a combined state and local sales tax rate of 7 percent, a 5.5 percent corporate tax rate, a property tax rate of about 0.7 percent, and a gas tax of about 35 cents per gallon. In contrast, California’s income tax ranges from 1 to 13.3 percent, has a combined state and local sales tax rate of 8.8 percent, a corporate tax rate of 8.8 percent, a property tax rate of about 0.7 percent, and a gas tax of about 77 cents per gallon. But despite these facts, Californians pay less in taxes than Floridians according to Newsom.

COVID policies, which were very different between California and Florida in terms of the extent and duration of lockdowns, were next up. The Centers for Disease Control reports that age-adjusted deaths were very similar between California and Florida, despite large differences in lockdown policies. Hannity and DeSantis interpreted these data as indicating more severe lockdown policies, such as California’s, did not reduce mortality. Yet despite the similarity in death rates between Florida and California, Newsom inexplicably blamed DeSantis for causing “tens of thousands of deaths.” And Newsom didn’t mention that in a Meet the Press interview less than three months ago, he stated, “We would’ve done everything differently” regarding COVID policies.

Next up was gasoline prices. According to Newsom, California gas prices, which are the highest in the country, are due to “Big Oil” ripping off California consumers. But this makes no sense unless you believe that “Big Oil” really has it in for Californians compared to every other state in the country. He never mentioned that California has the highest gas taxes in the nation, nor did he mention that California’s unique gasoline blend is used nowhere else in the country, which sometimes requires importing gas from South Korea, both of which drive up retail gas prices. And Newsom didn’t reveal that his early business ventures were financed by “Big Oil”—yet another inconvenient truth in California.

Regarding educational outcomes, Newsom boasted about California’s eighth-grade reading test scores. But there is nothing to boast about, as only about 30 percent of California students test at proficient or advanced reading levels based on federal education standards. And among these eighth graders, just 20 percent of Hispanic students and 15 percent of Black students are proficient or advanced in reading. These learning failures are occurring despite a California K–12 education budget that exceeds the sum of the combined total state budgets of Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Tennessee, states whose populations taken together are roughly 85 percent that of California’s.

There are so many other policy failures in California that never came up in the debate. Nearly one out of three Californians live in or near poverty. Buying a home is unattainable for nearly all Californians, which reflects Newsom’s failed promise to increase homebuilding in the state. Nearly one million Californians don’t have access to clean water, a problem that should be an obvious priority for the state to fix but that persists after five years of Newsom’s governorship.

Many Californians are tired of Newsom. In a state that is totally dominated by the Democratic party, Newsom’s job approval has dropped to 43 percent, with just 18 percent approving strongly. It is obvious now that Newsom is looking to the national political stage. And Californians are now looking for a governor who can fix these policy failures.