Ron DeSantis in Fifth GOP presidential primary debate

On Abortion: Defend the rights of states to enact pro-life protections

Well, clearly, states have the primary role in this, because that's what it was all of American history until 1973. So, you have states like Iowa that have enacted heartbeat bill. Florida has enacted a heartbeat bill. Other states have done other things. And so that's just, I think, where the country is right now. So, we will be somebody that will defend particularly the rights of states to be able to enact pro-life protections.
Source: CNN Town Hall 2024 pre-Iowa caucus Jan 4, 2024

On Crime: Citing George Floyd killing is "virtue signaling"

Q: What would you do about violent crime rates remaining high?

Gov. Nikki HALEY: When we bring law and order back to our cities, then that's when they'll be safe.

DESANTIS: Nikki Haley and I have a disagreement on the BLM stuff, because she tweeted during this period of time that the death of George Floyd should be "personal and painful for each and every American". She was virtue signaling to the left, she was accepting the narrative, and she was trying to impress people who were never going to like us. I never bought in to going after the police, we backed the Blue to the state of Florida, and we're about lower crime as a result of that.

HALEY: When I said that about George Floyd, when we turned around and had the worst shooting in a religious place that we had seen in this country, not only did I pass the first Body Camera Bill in the country and keep our state together, we came together as a state in prayer and we had no division, no riots, no anything.

Source: CNN 2024 pre-Iowa caucus one-on-one debate Jan 10, 2024

On Energy & Oil: Choose the Marcellus Shale over the Mullahs

DESANTIS: We're looking forward to be able to open up energy production [including] biofuels. I'm the only one that checked all the boxes from the Iowa renewable fuel standard. I never want to go hat in hand, like Biden has done, to Venezuela or Saudi and begging for energy. We're going to be able to open up production. We're going to choose Midland over Moscow. We're going to choose the Marcellus Shale over the mullahs. And we're going to choose the Bakken over Beijing. Energy independence is good for consumers. It's good to reduce inflation. And it's one of the best things we can do for our national security. So we'll do that on day one, and we are going to reverse Biden's green new deal and the electric vehicle mandates. We'll save the American automobile.

HALEY (on DeSantis long opposed ethanol before he decided to run for president. In 2015, DeSantis introduced legislation to repeal the Renewable Fuel Standard, and cosponsored five pieces of legislation to repeal it.

Source: CNN 2024 pre-Iowa caucus one-on-one debate Jan 10, 2024

On Energy & Oil: Kneecapping reliable energy means rolling blackouts

Q: Would you cut carbon emissions, the underlying cause of climate change?

DESANTIS: On day one as President, we take Biden's Green New Deal and we throw it in the trash can. It is bad for this country. We have to have reliable energy. You're going to end up having rolling blackouts if they kneecap reliable energy production in this country. Florida's had a massive decline in emissions--wasn't because of a single mandate. It was because of innovation, because a lot of natural gas has replaced coal. We do have market-based solar, but we cannot walk away from reliable energy. The left wants you to pay more for everything. We need you to pay less for energy. We cannot have these mandates and they'll be gone the day I'm President.

Q: Would you do anything to deal with the underlying cause?

DESANTIS: Innovate, and here's the thing. China is building two coal plants a week. So, why would we be cutting off our nose to spite our face? China is the problem here, and so hold them accountable.

Source: CNN 2024 pre-Iowa caucus one-on-one debate Jan 10, 2024

On Families & Children: Don't sexualize school curriculum, or Disney World

Q: You used your powers in Florida to take on Disney after the company criticized an education bill that you signed into law. How does that square with the traditional conservative view that small, limited government is best?

DESANTIS: The proper role of government is to protect our kids. And I have stood for the innocence of our kids. It is wrong to sexualize the curriculum. It's wrong to tell a kindergartner, like Disney wanted to do, that you can change your gender or tell a third grader that you're born in the wrong body. So I stood up against it--yes, the media didn't like it, the left didn't like it, and Disney didn't like it. Most people, most corporate Republicans would have caved. I stood and I fought for the kids. We took on Disney, and we won that fight and our kids are better off.

Now, we believe in empowering parents, and there are certain standards about what's age and developmentally appropriate. It's wrong to have pornographic materials in fourth or fifth grade.

Source: CNN 2024 pre-Iowa caucus one-on-one debate Jan 10, 2024

On Foreign Policy: Hard power in Indo-Pacific against Chinese Communist Party

Gov. HALEY: Dictators always say what they're going to do. China said they were going to take Hong Kong. They did. Russia said they were going to invade Ukraine. We watched it. China says Taiwan is next. We better believe them.

DESANTIS: I supported Trump's policy vis-a-vis Russia & Ukraine, and it was successful. You know, the Biden policy has not been. But, Nikki Haley is basically a carbon copy of what Biden is. It's an open-ended commitment. They want another $108 billion. We need to find a way to end this. But, we also have to look at what's the top threat to this country. It's the Chinese Communist Party. We are not doing what we need to do to have adequate hard power in the Indo-Pacific... I'm a Navy guy. We need more sea power. We're going to build that up and we're going to have a strategy to deny their ability to invade Taiwan or to get beyond the first island chain. On the current course, they're going to take advantage of Biden.

Source: CNN 2024 pre-Iowa caucus one-on-one debate Jan 10, 2024

On Government Reform: All laws should apply to Congress too

[On Congressional reforms]: Number 1, we need term limits for members of Congress. Number 2, we need a balanced budget amendment to the US Constitution. Number 3, we need to give the president a line item veto. And, number 4, when you see all these Congressmen making a killing in the stock market, we need a 28th Amendment to the Constitution that says very simply "Congress shall make no law respecting the citizens of the United States that does not also apply to members of Congress themselves."
Source: CNN 2024 pre-Iowa caucus one-on-one debate Jan 10, 2024

On Gun Control: Opposes waiting periods; instant checks will do the job

I think the background check should be instant. You have the thing, somebody goes, you can run them, and you can see. If there's a criminal conviction, if they're a felon, then, obviously, they ping. If they have mental health adjudication, then, of course, they're going to ping. But I think you want it to be instant background checks. People that go, law-abiding citizens exercising their rights, you shouldn't have to be on a mandatory waiting period. Instant checks will do the job.
Source: CNN Town Hall 2024 pre-Iowa caucus Jan 4, 2024

On Health Care: Make all of Medicaid into block grants

Q [to Gov. HALEY then DESNATIS]: In S.C. you chose not to expand Medicaid under Obamacare. Forty states did expand Medicaid covering more than 18 million Americans. As President, would you allow those states to keep their expansions in place?

HALEY: Medicaid needs to be sent down as block grants. Governors can best decide how to do that. Whether they need to use it towards mental health, whether they need to use it towards support services. Right now, I would send all of that down to the states. The problem is they're only sending a small portion of it.

DESANTIS: I think what you do is you block-grant the program and then let states run the way they see fit to do. But I can tell you this, expanding Medicaid leads to less private coverage. It doesn't necessarily increase access to quality care. I want to actually get people good health care. It's not just about a sheet of paper if you don't get any good doctors that get you entitled for that.

Source: CNN 2024 pre-Iowa caucus one-on-one debate Jan 10, 2024

On Health Care: More mental health institutions; more veteran PTSD services

Q: You said that closing mental health institutions, a policy supported by Ronald Reagan, was a mistake. Would you restore federal funding to those mental health institutions?

DESANTIS: Yes, we need more people in institutionalized settings, unfortunately. I think we have a significant problem with veterans, particularly the post-9-11 veterans, and we know the stats on suicide. We can't keep turning a blind eye to what's happening to our vets. It's not going to be done just through the VA. And it can't be done just by pumping people with pharmaceuticals. If a veteran has post- traumatic stress, you need more than just that. For example, in Florida, we have an organization that trains service dogs to be paired with veterans with post-traumatic stress. They understand the symptoms; they mitigate it; and the suicide rate is close to zero as a result. We got to think bigger than these bureaucracies, and we've got to be there for our vets and their mental health.

Source: CNN 2024 pre-Iowa caucus one-on-one debate Jan 10, 2024

On Homeland Security: I'll advocate for military service; get more signing up

We've have a lot of problems in the military now with recruiting. Recruiting's at a generational low in this country since the Vietnam War. I think there's a lot of reasons for that and I will rectify that. So I will be an advocate for military service. I will talk about that being a worthy endeavor for young people to pursue. And we are going to solve this problem. We are going to get more people signing up.
Source: CNN Town Hall 2024 pre-Iowa caucus Jan 4, 2024

On Immigration: Charge fees on worker remittances to foreign countries

Q: Trump famously promised to build a wall on the southern border. He obviously did not get that done. You have promised to finish the job. How will you succeed where he failed?

DESANTIS: We will build a wall. We will actually have Mexico pay for it, in the way that I thought Donald Trump [meant]. We're going to charge fees on remittances that workers send to foreign countries, billions of dollars. We'll build the wall. He also promised record deportations. Donald Trump deported fewer people than Barack Obama did when he was president. Biden's let in 8 million people just in four years. They all have to go back. We have to enforce the rule of law in this country. Biden has failed in this endeavor. He has not taken care that the laws of this country be faithfully executed. Do not trust Nikki Haley with illegal immigration--she's on tape at the Aspen Institute saying it's disrespectful to illegal aliens to say that they're criminals. They're violating the law. That's what's disrespectful.

Source: CNN 2024 pre-Iowa caucus one-on-one debate Jan 10, 2024

On Immigration: Children born here to illegal immigrants aren't "anchors"

DeSantis said, "The 14th Amendment obviously applies to U.S. citizens. It was never the intended to say, you come illegally across the border, have a kid, and all of sudden, the kid is an American citizen? That creates an anchor in the society so that you then can't deport the illegal aliens who came in. It's an incentive to come illegally. When people are coming illegally, they do not have a birthright at that point."

[DeSantis is proposing to overturn a Supreme Court precedent from 1898]: Fact Check by The Guardian, Mar. 16 2020 Children born on US soil can't just immediately safeguard their family members from deportation. A US citizen must be 21 years old before they can sponsor their parents for a green card. Even if parents do get a green card, they have a five-year holding period before they can finally apply for naturalization. In the end, the so-called "anchor baby" pathway to citizenship is at least a 26-year endeavor, even for those who entered the US legally.

Source: Guardian FactCheck on CNN Town Hall 2024 pre-Iowa caucus Jan 4, 2024

On Principles &Values: Protect religious institutions where marriage is a sacrament

I respect the Supreme Court's decision. We have abided by that in Florida, even though our Constitution defines it as between a man and a woman. I think what we need to recognize is, you are going to have people try to wield power against our religious institutions and try to marginalize them simply by upholding the biblical definition of marriage. I'm going to protect those religious institutions to be able to do what has always been done in terms of how they consider marriage as a sacrament.
Source: CNN Town Hall 2024 pre-Iowa caucus Jan 4, 2024

On Social Security: A promise made will be a promise kept

Q: You have said that you're not going to "mess with Social Security." Does that mean you have committed to never raising the retirement age and never cutting benefits?

DESANTIS: So, all seniors out there, a promise has been made to you. You've paid into this. Every single paycheck that you've had your entire life they've taken money out of, and that promise needs to be fulfilled. So, that will happen when I'm president. Promise made, promise kept. On the retirement age, there used to be people would say, "well, life expectancy is going up. Shouldn't it mirror that?" Well, the problem now in the last five years is life expectancy is going down. So, I don't see how you can raise the retirement age when our life expectancy is collapsing in this country. That's a huge problem in and of itself. I'll work with both sides of the aisle. We'll work on something for the long-term strengthening, but I am not going to mess with seniors' benefits.

Source: CNN 2024 pre-Iowa caucus one-on-one debate Jan 10, 2024

On Social Security: Can't raise retirement age when life expectancy declining

Q: Removing current seniors from the equation, are you committing to never raising the retirement age?

DESANTIS: I would never raise the retirement age in the face of a declining life expectancy. That would be really bad. That hurts blue collar folks. You get taxed your entire life; life expectancy is down. You may not even be recouping very many benefits.

HALEY: Three years in a row, he voted to raise life expectancy to 70 years old, three years in a row. Go to and you'll see it. So, now suddenly he's going to tell you because he's running for president and he's not going to do it, you can't trust him.

  • "DeSantis wanted to raise the retirement age to 70 when he was in Congress, voting to do so in 2013, 2014, and 2015. In 2012, Ron DeSantis told a local Florida newspaper that Social Security was unsustainable and was never intended for people to be retiring at '65 or 67' if they are going to live into their eighties."
    Source: CNN 2024 pre-Iowa caucus one-on-one debate Jan 10, 2024

    On Social Security: Social Security is not an entitlement; we all pay in

    DESANTIS: Governor Haley has said Social Security is an entitlement, but it's not an entitlement. You're paying into it. It's not a welfare program. You're being taxed for this your whole life. And so to expect to have benefits on the backend, I don't think that that's too much.

    The other thing I'd point out is Social Security for decades ran massive surpluses. What happened to those surpluses? The Congress spent the surpluses.

    Source: CNN 2024 pre-Iowa caucus one-on-one debate Jan 10, 2024

    On Tax Reform: Flat tax: better for growth & ends weaponization of IRS

    Q: Last week, you said you support a flat tax, which is a single income tax rate for every American. Under your plan, would working families pay the same tax rate as billionaires?

    DESANTIS: I would only do it if people are better off than they are now. I mean, I want people paying less taxes. We have a spending problem in this country. It's not a tax problem in this country. And if you had something that was simple and transparent, not only would that better for economic growth, it's also better to end the weaponization of government. The IRS has been weaponized against conservatives going back to the Obama administration.

    Q: So would working families would pay the same rate as billionaires?

    DESANTIS: You'd exempt working-class people-- the first $40 or $50 grand, that's just to subsist. So you would have no tax up to a certain point, and then it would just be a single rate. So if somebody makes twice as much, and they pay twice as much.

    Source: CNN 2024 pre-Iowa caucus one-on-one debate Jan 10, 2024

    On Tax Reform: Eliminate the IRS; have a single rate and just a flat tax

    I think I would eliminate the IRS, have a single rate and just do like a flat tax. I think that would be the ideal tax system to be able to do take away the distortions. And what happens is Florida is a good example of this. We have low tax and we cut taxes, and yet we attract more investment and our economic base expands. Obviously, I would only do it if it was lower taxes for everybody. But that is the ideal tax system.

    I understand the importance of agriculture for our country. It's not just an economic issue, food security is a national security issue. And I think we're more secure and better when we have family farms that are viable and that can pass that down from generation to generation. I don't want everything to be massive corporations. We need to eliminate the death tax on these family farms so that they can pass it down without getting taxed.

    Source: CNN Town Hall 2024 pre-Iowa caucus Jan 4, 2024

    On War & Peace: Don't force two-state solution; Palestinians don't accept it

    Q: In the Israel-Hamas war, some Israelis are pushing for the mass removal of Palestinians from Gaza. Governor Haley does not support that. Do you?

    DESANTIS: We've got to support Israel in word and in deed. And they need to be able to finish the job. This is a time to recognize that they've suffered the most murder of Jews since the Holocaust. Hamas wants a second Holocaust. They want to annihilate the state of Israel. We also have a disagreement. When Gov. Haley was at the U.N., she supported the idea of a two-state solution between Israel and the Palestinian Arabs. The problem with that is the Palestinian Arabs don't recognize Israel's right to exist as a Jewish state. So doing a two-state solution doesn't create something that's going to lead to a lasting peace. It creates a stepping stone for Israel's destruction. So under no circumstances as president am I going to pressure Israel to risk their security to do a so called two-state solution. She was wrong when she embraced that.

    Source: CNN 2024 pre-Iowa caucus one-on-one debate Jan 10, 2024

    On War & Peace: Florida expanded sanctions against Iran

    Q: Iranian-backed militants are attacking U.S. and western interests in the Red Sea (the Houthis), and Syria (Hezbollah) and Iraq. Would you order retaliatory strikes inside Iran at the risk of widening the Israel-Hamas War?

    DESANTIS: After the attacks against Israel, anyone with half a brain knows Iran is behind this. They fund Hamas. They fund Hezbollah. We did a special session of the legislature down in Florida. As the 14th largest economy in the world, we expanded sanctions against Iran. The root of this is Biden came into office and he relaxed the sanctions on Iran. They've had massive amounts of money flooding into their country. They take that money and they use it to fund jihad around the world. I would never put our troops in harm's way, like Biden is doing in the Middle East, without defending them with everything they got. If you harm a hair on the head of one of our servicemembers, you are going to have hell to pay.

    Source: CNN 2024 pre-Iowa caucus one-on-one debate Jan 10, 2024

    The above quotations are from Debates and Town Halls prior to the Iowa caucus on Jan. 15, 2024.
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    Page last updated: Jan 24, 2024