DeSantis makes large wager with evangelicals in GOP presidential primaries

Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) has labored to place himself as a greater model of Donald Trump, however he’ll lean on key variations with The Donald to courtroom one of many GOP’s most essential voting blocs.

DeSantis has embraced a agency pro-life coverage stance and highlighted, subtly, his standing as a stable household man, each of which distinction sharply with the Republican front-runner.


“One of many issues I’m most pleased with is that the state of Florida stands unequivocally in protection of the household and in protection of our youngsters,” DeSantis instructed a gathering of Christian broadcasters Monday night time. “And now we have carried out extra to guard kids than any state within the nation. In fact, only a brief few weeks in the past, I used to be lucky sufficient to signal the heartbeat invoice, which is the strongest pro-life invoice Florida has seen in its trendy historical past.”

The remarks had been delivered in Orlando on the Nationwide Non secular Broadcasters conference earlier than hundreds of Christians within the media.

DeSantis’s embrace of a six-week abortion ban is a pointy distinction with Trump, who cast an uneasy alliance with evangelicals en path to profitable the White Home in 2016 however has since saved his distance by embracing a hands-off “states proper” stance.

In his speech, DeSantis additionally touted Florida laws that will increase assist for a being pregnant assist providers program, together with efforts to present dad and mom higher entry to and affect in native faculties. One in all his favourite phrases is “training, not indoctrination.”

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All of that may very well be a lift for DeSantis as he makes an attempt to pry evangelical Christian voters away from his high GOP rival.

“You can’t win Iowa with out the assist of conservative evangelicals,” mentioned Drake College political professor Dennis Goldford, who has written a ebook on the Iowa caucuses. “They’re a vital Republican constituency.”

Trump left a giant opening to his proper when he indicated he wouldn’t assist a six-week abortion ban, Goldford argues, which DeSantis walked into by signing one into legislation in Florida. That may give him an opportunity with evangelical voters, who make up roughly half of Iowa Republicans, once they vote subsequent January.

DeSantis has already made stops within the state, hanging out with Gov. Kim Reynolds (R-IA) and Rep. Randy Feenstra (R-IA). However Goldford, who has witnessed each Iowa caucus since 1988, says that going through voters one-on-one nonetheless issues so much within the Hawkeye State and that doing so just isn’t a power for DeSantis.

“One of many good issues in regards to the caucuses is that they make candidates deal with voters as actual human beings and never simply marketing campaign props for pictures,” he mentioned. “You may have to have the ability to look any person within the eye and win them over along with your appeal, and by all accounts, DeSantis struggles with that.”

Together with coverage, DeSantis might be able to use his background and private life to his benefit.

In contrast to Trump, DeSantis is a navy veteran, serving within the U.S. Navy as a authorized adviser to SEAL Workforce One earlier than being deployed to Iraq. And DeSantis stays married to his first spouse, Casey DeSantis, in distinction to the thrice-divorced Trump.

Election 2024 DeSantis
FILE – Incumbent Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, his spouse Casey and their kids on stage after chatting with supporters at an election night time get together after profitable his race for reelection in Tampa, Fla., Nov. 8, 2022. (AP Photograph/Rebecca Blackwell, File)

Rebecca Blackwell/AP

These components can support the Florida governor to an extent, argues Cedarville College political professor Marc Clauson, as long as he is cautious about bringing them up.

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“DeSantis can speak about his navy service, however I believe he has to attend for the event to return to him moderately than being proactive about it,” he mentioned.

And with regards to his household, Clauson says DeSantis would do greatest merely being seen and photographed with them moderately than bringing the difficulty up straight.

DeSantis has alluded to Trump’s ethical failures earlier than, reacting to the Manhattan district lawyer’s fees in opposition to Trump by saying he does not know a lot about “paying hush cash to a porn star to safe silence over some kind of alleged affair.”

That led to a harsh response from Trump, who hasn’t stopped attacking DeSantis since and has been widening his lead within the polls.

Different candidates have attacked DeSantis as effectively, together with former Gov. Nikki Haley (R-SC) and even President Joe Biden. DeSantis has principally shied away from punching again straight, however that might change now that he is formally within the race.

A Catholic himself, DeSantis alluded to the battle forward by quoting from the New Testomony’s E-book of Ephesians throughout his Monday speech.

“Prepare. Placed on the total armor of God,” he mentioned. “Get up in your religion, and do not ever, ever again down.”

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