Where Things Stand: Even At Anti-Abortion Gala, DeSantis Shied Away From Hyping His 6-Week Ban

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CEDAR RAPIDS, IOWA - MAY 13: Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks during an Iowa GOP reception on May 13, 2023 in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Although he has not yet announced his candidacy, Gov. DeSantis has received the endors... CEDAR RAPIDS, IOWA - MAY 13: Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks during an Iowa GOP reception on May 13, 2023 in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Although he has not yet announced his candidacy, Gov. DeSantis has received the endorsement of 37 Iowa lawmakers for the Republican presidential nomination next year. (Photo by Stephen Maturen/Getty Images) MORE LESS
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As he stood before one of the friendliest crowds imaginable this weekend, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis was still hesitant to spend much time touting the passage of a strict six-week abortion ban in Florida, a law that he only briefly described as “a landmark piece of legislation for this state.”

DeSantis made a big show of signing his state’s 15-week ban into law last year. He televised the bill’s signing and dragged in a bunch of Republican state lawmakers, children holding pro-life signs and a packed crowd to applaud his signature. But when he signed his six-week ban into law in April, he did it privately. His office marked the occasion by putting out a press release in the middle of the night. When he gave a speech at Liberty University the next day, he didn’t even bring it up.

Like all the other 2024 Republicans, DeSantis is doing a weird dance on abortion as he tries to balance using the passage of one of the most restrictive abortion bans in the nation in his state to court far-right voters, while hesitating to hype it overly much for fear of alienating voters at the national level who might find his position to be too extreme.

That flailing was on full display this weekend as he spoke at the annual gala night for the Florida Family Policy Council, a major anti-abortion group in Florida. In his 40-minute speech, DeSantis spent mere seconds talking about his state’s new ban and even referred to it by its official, barely-used name. Per the Washington Post:

“We believe that everybody counts, everybody is special — and our Heartbeat Protection Act shows that we say what we mean and we mean what we say,” DeSantis said at the gala in Orlando, using the official title of the six-week ban. He called it “a landmark piece of legislation for this state” and said “there’s much more to do.”

After spending roughly 20 seconds on abortion restrictions, DeSantis then spent roughly two minutes discussing more general efforts to support fathers and mothers, especially single mothers, before moving on to “family friendly” tax policy and other staples of his political speeches, according to an audio recording of his remarks at the event, which was open to the press.

As he gears up to announce his 2024 bid officially this week, DeSantis is seeing the same writing on the wall as everyone who has been paying attention to election results since Roe’s overturning. Democrats have been using abortion access, justifiably, as an electoral carrot since the midterms, campaigning on promises to restore and protect abortion access as Republicans pass increasingly dangerous and restrictive bans in red states.

As we’ve been reporting for some time, abortion has become a driving issue for voter turnout as well as a driving factor in independents voting with Democrats in recent elections.

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