Donald Trump bashed on abortion comments while Ron DeSantis struggles in latest primary polling

'Without the [abortion] exceptions, it is very difficult to win elections,' Trump says
Tension builds between DeSantis and Trump following Miami arraignment
Posted at 5:21 PM, Sep 22, 2023
and last updated 2023-09-22 17:21:42-04

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Florida's governor says he can deliver $2 gas. The former president gets hit for comments on abortion. Plus, debate prep is underway with the stakes even higher than last month. Here's a recap of some of this week's 2024 campaign trail highlights.

A "Terrible Thing…" 

Former President Donald Trump is in hot water with some evangelicals and his GOP rivals who now suggest he's too soft on abortion restrictions. It comes after Trump did a sit-down interview with Meet the Press on Sunday.

The chat lasted for an hour, but Trump's refusal to commit to signing a national 15-week abortion ban was a highlight.

"I'm not going to say I would or I wouldn't," Trump told NBC's Kristen Welker. "DeSanctus (Gov. Ron DeSantis) was willing to sign a five-week and six-week ban."

"Would you support that?" Welker asked.

"I think what he did was a terrible thing and a terrible mistake," the Republican frontrunner responded.

Attacks from GOP rivals were fast and furious. Trump's former running mate and vice president, Mike Pence, alleged Trump was "backing away" from the issue. Florida's governor told an Iowa radio station that "all pro-lifers should know that [Trump's] preparing to sell you out."

Seemingly unfazed, the former president doubled down on his comments while speaking in Dubuque, Iowa, on Wednesday.

"I believe in the three exceptions for rape, incest and the life of the mother. I believe in that," Trump said. "I think it's very important. Without the exceptions, it is very difficult to win elections."

More Poll Problems for DeSantis

Speaking of winning, Trump is still way up in the Republican polls ahead of the first in the nation GOP primary in New Hampshire. A new CNN poll had Trump with 39% support among likely Granite State voters.

DeSantis is now in fifth with 10%, losing about 13 points since July. He found himself behind Vivek Ramaswamy, Nikki Haley, and Chris Christie respectively.

Pollsters said the governor's drop was tied to a loss of moderate support, which fell from 26% in July to just 6% now. He lost eight points among conservatives.

Lofty Goal to Lower Gas Prices

DeSantis, meanwhile, was down in Texas this week. He pitched his energy plan for the nation if elected. It was heavily focused on approving pipelines, plus more mining and extraction of oil, gas and coal on federal lands.

The governor also vowed he could cut gas prices in half to $2 a gallon.

"We will use our energy dominance to deny our enemies revenue," DeSantis said. "We will bankrupt their ability to threaten America, and we will help our allies become less reliant on our adversaries."

DeSantis has said he would repeal the Biden administration's programs that incentivize people to purchase electric vehicles, claiming that action would "save the American automobile."

The governor's announcement drew condemnation from critics after he downplayed climate change concerns from weather experts. DeSantis labeled the warnings as "ideology."

"This is driven by ideology," DeSantis said. "It's not driven by reality. In reality, human beings are safer than ever from climate disasters. The death rate for climate disasters has declined by 98% over the last hundred years, and the No. 1 reason for that is people that have had access to reliable electricity, have power."

The World Meteorological Organization agrees that deaths are down. The experts, however, attribute the change to improved, storm-resilient infrastructure and better forecasting.

Another One…

Finally, the eyes of the politically engaged now turn to California for next week's second GOP primary debate at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library & Museum.

The stakes are high for everyone not named Trump, especially for DeSantis. The governor looks to need another infusion of positive national attention to hang on to his flagging second-place position.

DeSantis took a shot at Trump this week for not planning to show up.

"He owes it to people to be there," DeSantis told ABC News Anchor Linsey Davis. "He owes it to people to make his case and defend his record."

Trump, instead, will do a Detroit speech as some autoworkers continue to strike. His time in the swing state of Michigan suggests to some that Trump is more worried about the general election than the primary.

The second debate is set for Wednesday at 9 p.m. The RNC is again planning to broadcast the event on Rumble. A third debate is expected in Miami later this fall. A specific date hasn't been announced but is expected to be in early November.