Dec 13, 2023 - Politics & Policy

DeSantis escalates attacks on Trump ahead of Iowa

Republican presidential candidate Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis participates in the NewsNation Republican Presidential Primary Debate at the University of Alabama Moody Music Hall on December 6, 2023 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis participates in the NewsNation Republican Presidential Primary Debate on Dec. 6 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis sharply criticized his top GOP foe and the Republican primary frontrunner during a CNN town hall on Tuesday, and made an urgent pitch to voters with just five weeks before the Iowa caucuses.

Why it matters: DeSantis made more than half a dozen criticisms against former President Trump over the course of an hour during the CNN town hall at Grand View University in Des Moines, Iowa, according to CNN.

  • On COVID, DeSantis said that "shutting down the country was a huge mistake, printing trillions and trillions of dollars was a huge mistake."

DeSantis hit Trump over what he called "flip-flopping" views on abortion.

  • "I think that's a huge problem, because we know people come at this from different angles. It's a big, diverse country. There's a lot of division about it. But you should be consistent in your beliefs," DeSantis said.

DeSantis accused Trump of being a "different Donald Trump than in '15 and '16."

  • "When he gets off the teleprompter now, you don't know what he's gonna say," DeSantis said.
  • "It's a different Donald Trump than in '15 and '16. You know, back then he was colorful, but it was really America First, about the policies. Now a lot of it's about him."

The big picture: DeSantis, who has staked much of his presidential ambitions on the crucial Hawkeye State, is in a battle with former United Nations ambassador Nikki Haley to secure second-place positioning.

  • Trump has a formidable lead in the Republican primary nationally and in the first-in-the-nation caucus state, where he is the first-choice for 51% of likely caucusgoers, according to a poll out Monday.
  • Politico Florida Playbook author Kimberly Leonard characterized DeSantis' message Tuesday night as: "Don't like how things are going under President Joe Biden? Blame the guy who was in the White House before him."

Go deeper: Moderators lose control of argument between Christie and DeSantis

Editor's note: This story has been corrected to attribute to journalist Kimberly Leonard (not DeSantis) the quote about Biden.

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