The Policy Fights Where DeSantis Sees His Chance to Hit Trump

Ron DeSantis is gearing up for a battle with Donald J. Trump where he believes the former president may be the most vulnerable to attack from a fellow Republican.

Mr. DeSantis, the governor of Florida, is expected to make a series of policy arguments, according to his public statements and interviews with people who have met him privately and spoke on condition of anonymity. He described his conversation.

He is telling Republicans that, unlike Mr. Trump, he can be trusted to uphold conservative principles. That Mr. Trump is too distracted and undisciplined to complete conservative policy victories such as his much-discussed border wall. And that whatever policy promises Mr. Trump makes to conservatives are worthless because he is unable to defeat President Biden.

Mr. DeSantis’ challenge is clear to anyone who has looked at recent polls: Mr. Trump has a deep psychological grip on many Republican voters who seem immune to reasonable arguments against him.

The thrice-married Mr Trump, who has been accused of paying off women including a porn star, has never been the epitome of a social conservative. But he largely ruled as one. That he was motivated more by transactions than punishment was irrelevant to the millions of evangelicals who cheered when he brought a Supreme Court decision that overturned Roe v. Will reverse Wade.

But Mr. DeSantis is expected to argue that the reason why Mr. Trump made so many ideologically implausible personnel decisions — such as elevating Dr. Anthony S. Fauci at the start of the Covid crisis — was That they have no fixed rules to fall back on. He was faced with difficult decisions.

In contrast, allies say Mr. DeSantis will try to make the case to Republican voters that they can count on him to stand his ground on tough issues like abortion.

Those who have spent time with Mr. DeSantis privately describe him as an ideologue whose happiest place is a quiet room where he can read an academic journal or a policy paper. Somewhat socially awkward, he frames his discourse with references to the Constitution, federal papers and Supreme Court case law.

Mr. Trump has never been accused of citing the Federalist Papers in casual conversation. His attention span on policy is limited at best. He has strong instincts about trade, immigration and some aspects of foreign policy, but in most policy areas he is willing to make deals or take advice from whoever spoke to him last.

Here are their five potential friction points on policy.

Since the Supreme Court last June in Roe v. Wade overturned, Mr. Trump appears unsettled by the consequences of his signature victory. He privately blamed abortion hardliners for Republicans’ dismal results in the midterm elections, declined to say whether he would support a national abortion ban and Florida’s new six A week-long abortion ban means that “Very hard

Mr. DeSantis has seized on the remarks, and his allies hope the issue will help him gain ground with the Christian right. “Protecting an unborn baby when its heartbeat is detectable is something that about 99 percent of pro-lifers support,” Mr. DeSantis said recently. recently said that Mr. Trump, “as a Florida resident,” had not said whether he would do so. Signed the “Heartbeat Bill”.

Yet, despite supporting abortion rights for most of his adult life, Mr. Trump was the most prolific anti-abortion president in history. He reminds conservative audiences that while previous Republican presidents have made plenty of promises, he was the one who ended Roe.

Mr. DeSantis and Mr. Trump differ in their views of corporate America.

Mr. DeSantis subscribes to the theory, popular among the self-described “New Right,” that the left has taken over so many American institutions — including academia, the media and big corporations — that conservatives are idiots. That they hand over these battlefields to the progressives. Name “Limited Government”.

Mr. DeSantis instead Gives an argument That conservatives must use every lever of government power to fight — and if that makes traditional conservatives feel hopeless, so be it.

Mr. Trump has flirted with the idea but has never fully bought into it. He has fought against the so-called. Environmental, social and government investmentprotested against social media companies for their treatment of conservatives and imposed tariffs that angered multinationals. But that too Tax cuts for corporations and invited chief executives he would later deride as “global experts” to the Oval Office and to his business councils.

A longtime New York businessman, Mr. Trump likes, above all, to cut a deal. They see Mr. DeSantis’ fights against Disney as futile and bad for Florida’s economy. he has happy Recent efforts by Disney Chief Executive Robert A. Iger to replace Mr. DeSantis.

Mr. Trump and Mr. DeSantis have diverged in significant ways on two key foreign policy questions: how to deal with China, and what role America should play in Ukraine’s war against Russia.

Mr Trump has been credited with prompting Republicans and Democrats to view China as a ruthless adversary rather than an imperfect trading partner. But for most of his presidency, Mr. Trump viewed the U.S.-China relationship through a purely economic lens.

He praised Chinese President Xi Jinping for pursuing a trade deal he could offer American farmers. It imposed tariffs on China but rejected other measures, such as sanctions against Chinese officials for human rights abuses. Interfere with his trade deal.. It was only in 2020, when Mr Trump blamed the Chinese Communist Party for the spread of Covid, that he finally set aside his administration’s China dose and fully empowered its wingmen.

Mr. DeSantis cares less about US-China trade and more about national security threats to Beijing. As governor, he signed a law banning Chinese social media platforms such as TikTok from state government apparatus and another that banned many Chinese citizens and companies with ties to the government. Will stop keeping. Buying property In Florida, Mr. Trump has promised legislation. Similar restrictions on Chinese investment And demanded from China. Pay billions of dollars in covid compensation.But his record suggests he may be more open to dialogue with Beijing than Mr DeSantis.

On Ukraine, Mr Trump has gone even further than Mr DeSantis in rejecting US support for Kiev. Although Mr Trump called Russia’s attack a “crime against humanity” in the early days of the war, he has recently Denied any moral discrimination. between the Ukrainians and the Russians – simply saying that there must be an agreement. He has thought about it. Handing over pieces of Ukraine to Russia.

After dodging questions about Ukraine, Mr. DeSantis told former Fox News host Tucker Carlson that defending Ukraine against Russia was not in the U.S. interest and described the war as a “territorial conflict.” Rejected. Under fire, Mr. DeSantis backtracked on the “territorial dispute” line, and Later interview He called Mr Putin a “war criminal”. Mr. Trump Refused Doing the same when asked on CNN.

While Mr. Trump and Mr. DeSantis both despise international institutions like the United Nations, the former president poses a more significant threat to the post-World War II international security framework.

John R. Bolton, Mr. Trump’s former national security adviser, feared his boss would pull the United States out of NATO and became convinced he would if he won re-election to a second term. Now, Mr. Trump validates those concerns. On your campaign website“committing to complete the process begun under my administration of fundamentally reassessing NATO’s purpose and mission”.

In pre-Trump Republican nomination contests, the leading candidates battled over who was more fiscally conservative — who would eliminate more federal agencies and who was more likely to shrink the federal government “that Up to size where I can drag it in. Bathroom and Dunk it in the bathtub“As anti-tax activist Grover Norquist put it.

But Mr. Trump has turned the GOP primary campaign into a battle over who is the most protectionist on trade, and who will most faithfully preserve government benefits for seniors. Mr. DeSantis, who rose to politics as a Tea Party fiscal conservative, has so far shown little interest in trying to get the former president out of the public on government spending and trade, and it appears that the party can reframe the conversation about fiscal discipline.

Mr. Trump and his super PAC have. Called Mr. DeSantis’ congressional votes to cut spending on Social Security and Medicare. Mr. DeSantis has said he will not “mess around” with Social Security for seniors who currently rely on the program. But unlike Mr. Trumphe has not ruled out reducing entitlement spending in ways that will affect young Americans as they retire.

Mr. Trump has. started Attacks against Mr. DeSantis Past attempts to kill A renewable fuel standard, which requires ethanol to be blended into the nation’s fuel supply. Fiscal conservatives see it as “big government” overreach, but Mr. Trump knows how important ethanol is to Iowa’s economy.

Mr. Trump’s allies plan to portray Mr. DeSantis as “soft” on trade — meaning he will not use tariffs as aggressively as the former president, who proudly described himself as “”A tariff manand started trade wars with China and Europe. Mr. Trump has promised that in his second term he will introduce “a new system of global baseline tariffs that rewards domestic production while taxing foreign companies.”

Mr. DeSantis will contrast his budget surpluses in Florida with trillions of dollars that Mr. Trump has added to the national debt during his presidency. Mr. DeSantis will point out that as a member of Congress he voted against a more than trillion-dollar spending bill that then-President Trump signed into law. 2017 And 2018. And Mr. DeSantis plans to tie Mr. Trump to high inflation. Criticism Appointment of Jerome H. Powell as Federal Reserve Chairman.

Mr. DeSantis has signed tough-on-crime legislation, including a law Reduces the range. To impose the death penalty.

Mr. Trump, who has cultivated a law-and-order persona, has played down that image in office by allowing his more liberal son-in-law, Jared Kushner, to lead bipartisan negotiations on a criminal justice law that would make the federal government more aggressive. Jail sentences will be reduced.

Mr. Trump immediately regretted signing the law, known as the First Step Act, and blamed Mr. Kushner. Privately, Mr. Trump’s own advisers have acknowledged that the First Step Act has struck a chord with his political base.

Yet Mr. DeSantis’ ability to directly attack Mr. Trump on the law is complicated by the fact that, along with most Republicans, he voted for its initial House version — which focused on prison reform. focused on and opposed by civil rights groups. And many Democrats. The very different version that passed, enacted when Mr. DeSantis was not in Congress, included sentencing reforms and the ability to apply retroactively for a reduced sentence.

A well-funded super PAC backing Mr. DeSantis is expected to attack Mr. Trump’s criminal record.

And in a course correction, Mr. Trump has proposed imposing the death penalty for drug trafficking, sending the National Guard to high-crime areas and US military deployment Against the Mexican drug cartels.

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