Seeking to differentiate himself from Trump, DeSantis cited signing into law Florida’s Heartbeat Protection Act, which bans all abortions where an unborn child’s heartbeat is detectable.
“While I appreciate what the former president has done in a variety of realms, he opposes that bill,” said DeSantis. “He said it was ‘harsh’ to protect an unborn child when there’s a detectable heartbeat. I think that’s humane to do.”
When asked if he thought Trump was “going soft” on the issue of abortion, DeSantis said, “Well, I think so. I mean, I was really surprised, because he’s a Florida resident, and I thought he would compliment the fact, you know, that we were able to do the heartbeat bill, which pro-lifers have wanted for a long time.”
“He never complimented, never said anything about it. Then he was asked about it, and he said it was ‘harsh,’” DeSantis continued.
Nevertheless, DeSantis went on to express his belief that America’s prosperity is about more than policy, saying, “It’s got to be spiritual. And I think it’s got to be a strong faith that is really going to get us through very turbulent times.”
“Look, at the end of the day, there’s certain problems, economic problems, there’s problems at the border, they are all very important, but why are we here?” DeSantis asked. “Why are we free people? We’re free because God has endowed us with inalienable rights. That’s why America was founded. Our Constitution was created not to give us rights, but to protect the rights that God has already bestowed upon us.”
Having framed the message of his campaign in spiritual terms, DeSantis mused about what it would have been like to be one of Jesus’ apostles.
“Could I have been there with Jesus’ disciples? I mean, Peter’s just fishing one day, and all of a sudden, this guy comes up to him, catches all the fish and says, ‘I want you to be a fisher of men, come with me,’” DeSantis said. “And so these guys all went out, and they dedicated their life to spreading the gospel…I look back at that and would love to have been able to be there with them.”
Last month, shortly before he announced his candidacy for president, DeSantis also spoke at the National Religious Broadcasters conference in Orlando, one of the largest gatherings of evangelical media personalities and organizations held each year, and told them to “to get ready, put on the full armor of God, stand up for your faith, and don’t ever, ever back down.”
As DeSantis’ campaign progresses, it remains to be seen whether evangelical voters will find his vision compelling enough to cast their ballot for him over and against Donald Trump.