DeSantis hits back with ads attacking ‘gun grabber’ Trump

Ron DeSantis, governor of Florida, speaks during a Freedom Blueprint event in Des Moines, Iowa, US, 10 March 2023.

A political group aligned with Florida Governor Ron DeSantis launched video attack ads against Donald Trump, striking back at the former president for scathing criticism of DeSantis and ratcheting up hostilities between the rivals for the Republican presidential nomination.

Never Back Down, a pro-DeSantis group, blasted Trump as a “gun grabber”, saying he “cut and run like a coward” in statements Trump made in 2019 after a series of mass shootings in which he backed “red flag laws”, which allow authorities to take guns from people judged to be a threat to harm themselves or others.

Another ad that the group launched on Sunday accused Trump of “stealing pages from the Biden-Pelosi Playbook” in his repeated criticism of DeSantis for working on behalf of “massive cuts” to Social Security and Medicare. As a congressman, DeSantis voted for nonbinding legislation to raise the qualifying age for both programmes to 70.

The ad barrage suggests a more aggressive response from the DeSantis team to Trump’s withering criticism of their candidate. While Trump is a declared candidate to recapture the White House in 2024, DeSantis hasn’t announced a presidential bid.

Make America Great Again, a Trump-aligned group, has been amplifying the former president’s criticism of DeSantis’s prior votes on Social Security in advertisements for more than two weeks. The latest, referencing an anecdote reported in the Daily Beast in which DeSantis scooped chocolate pudding with three fingers, says the Florida governor “has his dirty fingers all over senior entitlements”.

Republican support for a DeSantis presidential run has been declining in polls as Trump repeatedly denigrates the Florida governor and House Republicans publicly rally around the former president in the face of a criminal indictment by a Manhattan grand jury.

Trump’s lead over DeSantis in the RealClearPolitics average of polls has widened to more than 28 percentage points from as close as 13 points in January.

The DeSantis-aligned group’s online ad criticising Trump’s stances on firearms was released as Republican presidential hopefuls courted gun enthusiasts at a National Rifle Association convention in Indianapolis.

The group unveiled the ad responding to Trump’s attacks on DeSantis’s Social Security record on Fox News Sunday.

Never Back Down, which also released a gauzy ad celebrating DeSantis’s political values, has reserved $3.5-million worth of television air time, split between national cable channels and local buys in early presidential nominating states including Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina, according to AdImpact.

(With assistance from Bill Allison and Laura Davison.)


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