GOP presidential hopeful Governor Ron DeSantis has leapt on Donald Trump's recent comments about abortion, arguing that the former president's less-extreme views are out of step with modern-day Republican values.
Mr Trump recently took the position that six-week abortion bans — bans that Mr DeSantis signed into law in Florida — were a "terrible mistake." He told NBC's Meet the Press that he would sit down with people from "both sides" of the abortion debate and negotiate a deal that would leave everyone in "peace" on the long-contested issue.
Mr DeSantis called the soundbite a "terrible statement" and questioned Mr Trump's loyalty to the Republican project of using state power to force women into giving birth.
“Donald Trump may think it’s terrible. I think protecting babies with heartbeats is noble and just and I’m proud to have signed the heartbeat bill in Florida and I know Iowa has similar legislation,” the Florida governor told Radio Iowa. “I don’t know how you can even make the claim that you’re somehow pro-life if you’re criticising states for enacting protections for babies that have heartbeats.”
He went on, saying Mr Trump was "changing in a way that is not consistent with the values of the people in Iowa" and moving away from promises he made in 2016.
Mr DeSantis said it would be a "danger" to the country if Mr Trump were re-elected, and warned Republicans who supported the state forcing women to give birth that the former president was "preparing to sell you out."
“I’ve given him credit for his accomplishments, whether it’s the court appointments, whether it’s the Abraham Accords…the deregulation and I think he does deserve credit for that, but anytime he did a deal with Democrats whether it was on budget, whether it was on the criminal justice ‘First Step Act,’ they ended up taking him to the cleaners,” Mr DeSantis told the station.
While Mr DeSantis may be proud of the heartbeat bill he signed into law, most of his constituency is not; a University of North Florida poll found that 75 per cent of residents surveyed either somewhat or strongly disagreed with the ban.
Mr DeSantis said the data "doesn't register to me."
The Florida governor isn't the only 2024 Republican presidential candidate taking Mr Trump to task for budging on abortion rights; Senator Tim Scott also fired shots at the former president.
“President Trump said he would negotiate with the Democrats and walk back away from what I believe where we need to be, which is a 15-week limit on the federal level,” Mr Scott told NBC's "Meet the Press."
Mr Scott made the comments after a town hall participant asked him to differentiate himself from Mr Trump.
The senator has been attempting to stand out in the crowded primary field by taking the hardest-line stance on abortion, hoping to wrangle Evangelical voters away from competitors.
“Vivek Ramasamy, Nikki Haley, Ron DeSantis, all along with President Trump, have said they will not name a week where we stop California, New York, Illinois, from having abortions on demand,” Mr Scott said.