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Pence Dodges Questions on Abortion and Ukraine Issues

Gov. Ron DeSantis’ campaign predicted before Wednesday’s GOP presidential primary debate that there can be “knives out” for him. As a substitute, the governor largely escaped criticism as he worked to deliver his talking points on all the pieces from President Joe Biden to COVID-19 policy and fighting crime. DeSantis was not involved within the sharpest exchanges of the night and ended the two-hour debate with just over 10 minutes of speaking time, behind three other candidates.

When he did get a matter, DeSantis initially avoided saying whether former Vice President Mike Pence did the fitting thing on Jan. 6, 2021, and likewise whether he’d institute a national ban on abortion after six weeks. He also voiced skepticism about more aid for Ukraine, pledged to send the U.S. military into Mexico to fight drug cartels, and indicated – together with many of the other candidates on stage – that he would back former President Donald Trump if he won the GOP presidential nomination and was convicted of a criminal offense.

DeSantis’ campaign has been on a downward slide, and there was intense pressure on him to deliver a powerful debate performance. A few of his lines got big applause, but he often took a back seat as other candidates engaged in aggressive back-and-forth.

Listed below are three takeaways from the talk:

1. A lot for “Hammer Vivek”
A pre-debate memo put out by consultants for a pro-DeSantis super PAC suggested DeSantis “hammer Vivek Ramaswamy,” an entrepreneur who has been rising within the polls. As a substitute, it was Ramaswamy on the attack, using the memo against him.
“The fact is you will have a bunch of individuals, skilled politicians, super PAC puppets following slogans handed over to them by their 400-page super PACs last week,” Ramaswamy said. “The actual alternative we face on this primary is that this: Do you would like an excellent PAC puppet or do you would like a patriot who speaks the reality?” It was considered one of the few jabs at DeSantis by one other candidate throughout the debate, and he didn’t respond. As the best polling candidate behind former President Donald Trump, there was a way that a number of the other candidates might attempt to knock him out of second place. As a substitute, Ramaswamy was the one shelling out and receiving much of the criticism, engaging in sharp exchanges with Pence and former Recent Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. Positioned between Ramaswamy and Pence, DeSantis looked on as they went forwards and backwards on Ukraine and other issues.

2. Dodging on Pence, abortion
Among the many more notable debate moments for DeSantis was his response to a matter about Pence’s actions on Jan. 6, 2021, when he was pressured by Trump to not certify the election results. Pence ignored Trump’s pressure and was vilified by lots of his supporters, including those that stormed the U.S. Capitol. Debate moderator Martha MacCallum, a Fox News anchor, asked U.S. Sen. Tim Scott if Pence “did the fitting thing.” Scott replied: “Absolutely, he did the fitting thing.” Asked the identical query, DeSantis said: “We want to finish the weaponization of those agencies.” Each moderators interjected to say he wasn’t answering the query. “I do know, but here’s the thing,” DeSantis continued. “This election isn’t about Jan. 6 of 2021, it’s about Jan. 20 of 2025 when the subsequent president goes to take office.” MacCallum again noted that DeSantis didn’t answer. Pence then pressed DeSantis to “answer the query.” “Mike did his duty, I got no beef with him,” DeSantis finally said. “But here’s the thing, is that this what we will be specializing in going forward? The rehashing of this?” It wasn’t the one query DeSantis dodged. Asked if he would approve a national ban on abortion after six weeks of pregnancy, as he did in Florida, DeSantis said “I will stand on the side of life” but in addition appeared to indicate states must have leeway. “I understand Wisconsin goes to do it different than Texas,” he said. “I understand Iowa and Recent Hampshire are gonna do different.” DeSantis’ comments about aid to Ukraine also could grab attention. He was criticized early in his campaign for calling the war in Ukraine a “territorial dispute” and backed away from that statement. Asked about approving more aid to Ukraine, DeSantis said “Europe must step up.” “You are saying you wouldn’t… Gov. DeSantis?” asked moderator Brett Baier. “I’d have Europe pull their weight,” DeSantis said, adding: “I believe our support must be contingent on them doing it.” DeSantis then tried to pivot to China, but struggled to articulate his message. “I’d have support in China to give you the chance to take, to give you the chance to take China and do what we’d like to do with China,” he said. When Baier asked candidates to boost their hand if they may back Trump if he wins the GOP presidential nomination but is convicted of criminal activity, Ramaswamy’s hand shot up first. DeSantis waited just a few seconds, raising his hand after many of the other candidates.

3. Talking points but no breakout
DeSantis easily delivered most of the talking points he has honed on the campaign trail, sometimes to resounding applause, but didn’t appear to have a breakout moment, and candidates similar to Ramaswamy attracted more attention by being more aggressive. The primary query of the night went to DeSantis, who was asked about “Wealthy Men North of Richmond,” a protest song that has gone viral with conservatives. “Our country is in decline, this decline isn’t inevitable it is a alternative, we’d like to send Joe Biden back to his basement,” DeSantis said in leading off the talk with a well-worn line from his stump speeches, before adding that Congress is spending an excessive amount of and “those wealthy men north of Richmond have put us in this case.” From USA TODAY: Republican candidates spar over Trump, war in Ukraine, and abortion: Debate recap. DeSantis later used a matter about inflation and government spending to focus on his COVID-19 record and get in a jab at Anthony Fauci, the infectious disease expert who helped lead the federal government’s response to the pandemic. Channeling the debate-missing Trump, DeSantis said he’d tell Dr. Fauci, “you’re fired” to a round of applause. He resurrected a campaign catchphrase favorite, “stone-cold dead,” when referring to his Mexican border policy that will encourage lethal force against drug cartels smuggling fentanyl across the border. One in all DeSantis’ mostly used words as he barnstorms early primary states far behind within the polls went unsaid throughout the talk. The word “woke” never got here up within the two-hour debate. Whether DeSantis did enough to carry onto his position as the highest alternative to Trump and fend off challengers stays to be seen. Ramaswamy seemed to be getting more post-debate buzz, while Pence and Christie also had more speaking time than DeSantis but weren’t as warmly received by the talk audience.

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