WATCH: DeSantis’ top moments on Israel, immigration, Trump and Haley at CNN town hall: ‘An easy answer’

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis took part in a CNN town hall event on Tuesday night discussing a wide range of topics with top moments that included immigration, funding overseas conflicts, former President Donald Trump, and the state of the GOP race.

DeSantis on taxpayer funding to Israel vs Ukraine

DeSantis was asked by a member of the audience which conflict was most worthy of United States support: Israel or Ukraine.

“That’s an easy answer. It’s the state of Israel, they are our strongest allies in the Middle East,” DeSantis said, later adding that “in terms of the two-state solution, I don’t think you can have a two-state solution when the Palestinian Arabs will view it as a stepping stone to the destruction of Israel.”

The Florida governor also discussed focusing on the ongoing crisis at the southern border before looking overseas.


Gov. DeSantis at CNN town hall (CNN)

DeSantis on the crisis at the southern border

“Day one, we’re going to declare it a national emergency. I’m sending the military to the southern border. We’re going to stop the invasion,” DeSantis said when speaking about the ongoing border crisis, before making a repeated complaint about Trump’s handling of border wall contruction.

If Trump had built the border wall, it would have been very difficult for Biden to bring in all those many people,” DeSantis told Tapper, echoing his campaign pledge to tax remittances from Mexico to pay for a border wall and criticizing Trump for not completing a wall. 

“Talk is cheap and I’m sick of Republicans using the issue every election cycle to try to get donations and to try to tell the people they’re going to do it. We are going to bring the issue to a conclusion.”

DeSantis goes after Trump

DeSantis continued to take several swings at Trump, who currently holds a commanding lead in polls both in Iowa and nationally, before saying he is the “only” GOP candidate who could beat the former president for the nomination.

Former President Donald Trump

President Donald Trump remains the frontrunner of the GOP presidential primary. (Susan Walsh)

“I’m the only one running that can beat Trump one on one. Why? Because the other candidates cannot get enough support from core Republicans and transitional conservatives.”

“He’s a different Donald Trump than 2015 and 2016. Back then he was colorful, but it was really America first about the policies. Now a lot of it’s about him,” DeSantis told Tapper, before calling out the former president not participating in any of the four presidential primary debates.


DeSantis also hit Trump on abortion, saying that Trump “flip-flopped” on the “right to life” issue.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis speaks to members of the media

DeSantis participated in a townhall with CNN Tuesday night. (Sergio Flores)

DeSantis pledges ‘reckoning’ for government health agencies

On healthcare, DeSantis criticized Trump again for saying during his 2016 campaign he was going to repeal Obamacare, but failing to accomplish it. 

DeSantis said “they failed because they didn’t have anything to replace it with.” The DeSantis campaign would be releasing a healthcare policy plan in the future, the governor said.

The Republican noted that he believes “the biggest health care issue we’ve had in this country in the last four or five years is COVID-19,” adding that “I am going to bring a reckoning to those agencies that lied to this country, the CDC, NIH, FDA, people like Fauci, all those things that really harm this country. And yet nobody’s been held accountable.”

“Another thing we’re going to deal with because health care, the biggest health care issue we’ve had in this country in the last four or five years is COVID 19. I am going to bring a reckoning to those agencies that lied to this country, the CDC, NIH, FDA, people like Fauci, all those things that really harm this country. And yet nobody’s been held accountable.”

Nikki Haley, Ron DeSantis

Haley and DeSantis clash during the fourth Republican presidential primary debate, which was held on the campus of the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa. (Justin Sullivan)

DeSantis targets Haley

DeSantis used some of his time to criticize former Ambassador Nikki Haley, who many believe represents his biggest challenge in terms of positioning himself as the alternative to Trump, on issues like social security. 

The Florida governor took another jab at Haley after her key endorsement from Gov. Chris Sununu, R-N.H., Tuesday.

“Even a campaigner as good as Chris is not going to be able to paper over Nikki being an establishment candidate. I mean, she’s getting funded by liberal Democrats from California, like the founder of LinkedIn, people on Wall Street like the head of JP Morgan,” DeSantis said. “She’s really reflective of the old failed Republican establishment of yesteryear. We do not need to go back to that.”


DeSantis was also asked about his wife Casey’s successful battle against breast cancer and he praised her decision to get a second opinion after a doctor told her she was cleared but she still felt something was wrong and “really fought for herself.” 

“When you see somebody that you love go through the chemo and it just sucks the life out of you and everything she had to go through, as a husband, I’m there doing what I can to be the helping hand and to help with the family and everything,” DeSantis said. 

“But you almost wish I could do a chemo for her so she didn’t have to do it all this time. But it was not fun, but I’d say she’s better than ever now with her health. So that’s really all that matters. People’s prayers were answered.”

The Real Clear Politics average of polls in Iowa shows DeSantis with 19.7% of the vote — in second place behind Trump, who is polling at 50%, and ahead of former Ambassador Nikki Haley who is polling in third at 15.7%. 


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