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Republican presidential candidate Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks during a meet and greet, Thursday, Dec. 7, 2023, in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

Ron DeSantis Going After Trump's 'Soft' Support in 'Distorted' Primary

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DES MOINES, Iowa - Ron DeSantis is a man on the move, and in Iowa, he needs to quickly make a big one if he hopes to catch Donald Trump. After all, the clear GOP primary frontrunner has exhibited a Teflon quality. 

"Trump does obviously have a certain segment that's very strong," DeSantis acknowledged. However, he sees an opening. "A lot of these people, though, that come up in these polls, a lot of them are soft. I mean, they remember him, they liked his policies, but they are willing to vote for somebody else." 

Before getting to Trump, he needs to head off upstart challenger Nikki Haley. Both are battling it out to be the last candidate standing against Trump. "She's not going to be able to win Iowa, I can, DeSantis told CBN News. "And the reason is because you have to appeal to core Republicans and conservatives. I think she really represents more of the old establishment type of thinking." 

DeSantis hopes big endorsements from Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds and top evangelical leader Bob Vander Plaats will give him a leg up. He believes his record on the pro-life issue, taking on Disney and many other culture war fights will play well in the Hawkeye State. 

"Everyone comes here, every presidential cycle, and says a lot of the same things but I've actually delivered," he said. 

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slider img 2DeSantis's unwavering commitment to Israel and the biblical homeland could also make an impact. With anti-Zionism running rampant after Hamas's brutal attack against Israel, CBN News asked the Florida governor if anti-Zionism is the same as antisemitism. 

"That's how we've defined that in Florida," DeSantis said. "I did a bill to combat antisemitism on college campuses way back in 2019 and we made that same point. If Israel is the only country you're singling out, you only care about the world's only Jewish state. You're not singling out any of these others and you're acting like that, that is a telltale sign that this is the case." 

He says Americans need to understand the historical context of what's happening in the Holy Land. 

"I think it's important that we get the history right. When I see some of these imbeciles on college campuses saying Israel's a colonial power, excuse me, Judea and Samaria. those go back to biblical times. Those are ancient Jewish lands," DeSantis noted. 

For DeSantis, policy positions have not really been an issue. The big obstacle is convincing a loyal base to ditch Trump. He's been hit by the MAGA movement because they believe he should have waited his turn and not run against Trump. 

"It's a republic, it's not a monarchy," he said. 

DeSantis told CBN News, "Everyone has a right to be able to run. Obviously, Trump could win the primary. I'm not convinced he can win the general (election). I can."

However, recent polls show Trump beating Biden in a general election matchup in key swing states. 

"When has he ever led in that?," DeSantis asked. "The media has never wanted to show him ever leading up until very recently so why are they doing that? I think they're trying to create a narrative that scares Democrats to replace Biden and also tries to convince Republicans, to go ahead and nominate Trump. I guarantee you, six or nine months later, those polls are going to look a lot different. The media will be putting out polls saying the exact opposite." 

The reality is this is an uphill climb for anyone not named Trump. DeSantis admits that if he had a magic wand, he'd wave it for one big change. 

"I would say if I could have one thing change, I wish Trump hadn't been indicted on any of this stuff. I mean, honestly, from Alvin Bragg on. I've criticized the cases. I think, someone like a Bragg would not have brought that case if it was anyone other than Donald Trump and so someone like that is distorting justice, which is bad, but I also think it distorted the primary," he explained.  

When pressed to clarify if he means it helped Trump, DeSantis noted, "It's both that but then it also just crowded out I think so much other stuff and it's sucked out a lot of oxygen." 

When asked if the indictments made it rougher politically for him and other candidates, he concurred. 

"I think for the primary it distorted. Yeah, I think it distorted," DeSantis said. 

The hope is that some GOP voters will grow tired of the controversies surrounding Trump. The latest one: when Trump talked about the border and certain illegal immigrants "poisoning the blood" of the country. That language has been compared to a similar phrase by Adolf Hitler. 

"When you start talking about using those types of terms, I don't think that helps us move the ball forward. I would not put it in those terms. I want to stop the invasion at the border 100%, but then legal immigration should really only be for people that buy into our core values as a country, and that actually want to assimilate into American society," he said.  

For DeSantis, it's all part of a message he hopes resonates in Iowa and beyond. He and the rest of the country will start getting answers in less than a month.  

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