Former President Donald Trump’s comments about abortion give Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis a wedge. DeSantis, who has governed from the right as Florida’s governor, has an opportunity to build a wedge between Trump and his Christian Right base.
The Florida governor is expected to file paperwork to run for president with the Federal Election Commission next week. He is expected to declare his candidacy around Memorial Day.
Ron DeSantis currently trails Trump by 56 percent to 19 percent, according to the Real Clear Politics average of polls. Trump’s legal travails have given him a copious amount of free press. It also has rallied his base behind him out of sympathy.
The former president also blasted DeSantis in an interview with The Messenger for banning abortions after six weeks into a woman’s pregnancy.
“He has to do what he has to do,” Trump said when asked about Florida’s abortion law. “If you look at what DeSantis did, a lot of people don’t even know if he knew what he was doing. But he signed six weeks, and many people within the pro-life movement feel that that was too harsh.”
Ron DeSantis defended the legislation
“Protecting an unborn child when there’s the detectable heartbeat is something that almost probably 99% of pro-lifers support,” DeSantis said.
Iowa Evangelical leader Bob Vander Plaats came out against Trump in the wake of his CNN town hall appearance. Trump appeared to blame Conservatives for the midterm election losses in the wake of the overturning of Roe v. Wade.
“The former president could take a victory lap by just saying, ‘Hey, look at I’m the guy who gave you three Supreme Court justices that overturned Roe v. Wade.’ But instead, he then alienates himself from the pro-life community by saying you’re the reason we didn’t do better in 2022,” Vander Plaats said. “Then just recently saying that Ron DeSantis, who signed a heartbeat bill in the state of Florida, that that was too harsh. The pro-life community expects better than that.”
Vander Plaats continued: “I thought his answer to the pro-life issue on the CNN town hall was a disaster as well. That’s why I think the Iowa caucus door has flung wide open for people to take a look at who should be our nominee.”
He also hit Trump for his obsessive dwelling on the 2020 election instead of focusing on the future.
“America is exhausted, [voters] are tired of it. I think they want to turn the page to the next generation leader, someone who’s got a compelling vision that might unite America,” Vander Plaats said.
Trump Vulnerable on Fauci and COVID
Ron DeSantis also has opportunities to hit Trump on his having stuck with Anthony Fauci and Deborah Birx throughout the COVID crisis. Fauci routinely appeared in the media often seeming to be at odds with Trump on the pandemic.
“The approach to COVID was different. I would have fired somebody like Fauci. I think he got way too big for his britches, and I think he did a lot of damage,” DeSantis said.
Fauci is widely reviled among Republicans. DeSantis’ record as someone who has been successful in expanding Republican control of his state and enacting a conservative political agenda could help him build a wedge.
Ron DeSantis initially supported the COVID vaccines, but he held a special session of the Florida legislature to ban vaccine mandates in Florida.
Trump struggled to control the Executive Branch while he was president and to work with Congress even when Republicans controlled both chambers.
DeSantis also has an advantage with independent voters, unlike Trump, but Trump has a strong cadre of loyalists that the Florida governor could have a hard time convincing to switch.
He can look voters in the eyes and point out his record of success in areas where Trump failed in his term as president.
“And by that, I mean that I believe that Governor DeSantis is the most electable, most conservative candidate out there who can both win the general election, as well as govern effectively, as actually implement, through discipline and focus, the most conservative policy agenda possible,” former Trump supporter Steve Cortes said of DeSantis after announcing he was switching his allegiance.
John Rossomando is a senior analyst for Defense Policy and served as Senior Analyst for Counterterrorism at The Investigative Project on Terrorism for eight years. His work has been featured in numerous publications such as The American Thinker, The National Interest, National Review Online, Daily Wire, Red Alert Politics, CNSNews.com, The Daily Caller, Human Events, Newsmax, The American Spectator, TownHall.com, and Crisis Magazine. He also served as senior managing editor of The Bulletin, a 100,000-circulation daily newspaper in Philadelphia, and received the Pennsylvania Associated Press Managing Editors first-place award for his reporting.