- DeSantis criticized Trump for skipping the debate and questioned his ability to defend his track record on issues like the national debt and inflation.
- The Florida governor also discussed improving the national education framework and pointed to successful policies he implemented in Florida.
- DeSantis promised to make the U.S. energy independent, reduce reliance on China, and lower gas prices to $2 per gallon by 2025. However, current polls still favor Trump as the top choice among Republican voters.
Gov. Ron DeSantis touched on a series of familiar stateside policy actions during Wednesday night’s Republican primary debate as he attempts to bolster his standing in the polls and close the gap with Donald Trump.
Seen as the main rival to Trump, DeSantis, alongside his fellow candidates, quickly rebuked the former president’s decision to once again forgo participation in the debate, insinuating that his failure to appear marked an inability to address his perceived shortcomings
“Donald Trump is missing in action,” said DeSantis. “He should be on this stage tonight. He owes it to you to defend his record where they added 7.8 trillion to the debt. That set the stage for the inflation that we have.”
As moderators began inquiring among the primary field about policy-related stances, the governor called for national education reform, citing legislation ratified under his administration in Florida, including school choice and a parent’s bill of rights, as starting points for his vision at the federal level.
“Our country’s education system is in decline because it’s focused on indoctrination [and] denying parents [of their] rights.” “Florida represents the revival of American education. Florida is showing how it’s done; we’re standing with parents and our kids are benefiting.”
When pressed about Florida’s education guidelines on teaching slavery and the controversy that erupted following the publication of its curriculum, DeSantis rebuked the pushback he received on the matter as a hoax perpetrated by Vice President Kamala Harris. The governor subsequently exchanged brief words with South Carolina Senator Tim Scott, who emphasized that the state’s teachings would have been acceptable if “just that one sentence was removed.”
“First of all, a hoax that was perpetrated by Kamala Harris,” said DeSantis. “We are not going to be doing that. Second of all, that was written by descendants of slaves. These are great black history scholars. So we need to stop playing these games.”
Moving toward economic issues, DeSantis reiterated his desire to implement fiscal independence through energy production and a decreased dependence on foreign entities for commodities and resources.
DeSantis’ presidential platform details intentions to sever economic ties with China, with statements given during the debate that indicate efforts to lessen the global superpower’s presence on the geopolitical stage.
“We need a totally new approach to China,” DeSantis said. “We’re going to have real hard power in the Indo-Pacific to deter their ambitions, we’re going to have economic independence from China, where we’re decoupling our economy, and we are going to go after the cultural power they have in this country.”
Supplementing his political ambitions towards China, DeSantis outlined his plans to reduce gas prices, holding ambitions to achieve costs of $2 per gallon by 2025. His proposed energy policy would reverse the Biden administration’s regulations approach and reduce reliance on foreign nations for energy.
“We need a pro-America energy policy. We will reverse American decline by reversing Biden’s America last energy agenda, eliminating reliance on hostile nations for energy, and putting the economic interests of Americans before the radical left’s ideological agenda,” said DeSantis.
Recent polls give Trump a strong lead among Republican voters as their preferred presidential nominee, with support at 52 percent in a CNN poll and 62 percent in a Quinnipiac University poll. Meanwhile, DeSantis, who was once considered a significant challenger to Trump, has seen a decline in his poll numbers, falling to 18 percent in the CNN poll and 12 percent in the Quinnipiac poll.
Trump has repeatedly cited his commanding lead in the polls as a basis for not partaking in the Republican debates. Following the conclusion of Wednesday’s event, the former president’s team said that little can “change the dynamics” of the primary race at this point.
“Nothing that was said will change the dynamics of the primary contest being dominated by President Trump,” said Trump campaign Senior Advisor Chris LaCivita in a prepared statement. “President Trump has a 40- or 50-point lead in the primary election and a 10-point lead over Joe Biden in the general election, and it’s clear that President Trump alone can defeat Biden.”