Is Donald Trump a political moderate? Not quite, but moderate is a relative term, and in the 2024 Republican presidential primary, Trump, in a unique manner, will run as the moderate. Politically, some other candidates in the race may take more moderate positions on various issues, like former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson. But among the legitimate primary contenders, of which there are few, Trump stands out as less right-wing than the opposition.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is Trump’s chief primary challenger. While DeSantis is well behind Trump in nearly every poll, he polls in the double digits and will likely earn support from the donor class and much of the Republican establishment.
How did Trump react to DeSantis’s official entry on May 24? He wrote a post on Truth Social that sounded like it could’ve come from Joe Biden.
“Ron DeSanctus can’t win the General Election (or get the Nomination) because he VOTED TO OBLITERATE SOCIAL SECURITY, EVEN WANTING TO RAISE THE MINIMUM AGE TO 70 (or more!), VOTED TO BADLY WOUND MEDICARE, AND FOUGHT HARD AND VOTED FOR A 23% TAX ON EVERYTHING” SALES TAX. He was, and is, a disciple of horrible RINO Paul Ryan, and others too many to mention Also, he desperately needs a personality transplant and, to the best of my knowledge, they are not medically available yet. A disloyal person!”
Trump will continue bashing DeSantis for his support for entitlement reform and the FairTax. It’s a strategic play. That kind of entitlement reform is unpopular with Americans, especially the older voters who are more likely to vote in a Republican primary. And Americans know little about the tax code, so pitching the FairTax as a massive national sales tax hike will probably work. There’s no chance the FairTax becomes law, and outside of highly politically-engaged conservative circles, who the hell knows what the FairTax is?
Yet, this is a former Republican president hitting a conservative Republican for supporting limited government policies. As a member of Congress, DeSantis wanted to cut spending to the two largest government programs and change the tax code resulting in the government taking in less revenue—which would shrink government spending. Trump understands these three ideas are political losers that could hand Biden a second term.
Socially, Trump is the less conservative of the two. While DeSantis signed a heartbeat bill in Florida, banning abortion after six weeks, Trump claimed—without evidence—that many pro-life people thought the bill was too extreme, but in reality, the problem pro-lifers have with the law is that it allows abortion for six weeks too many. Meanwhile, Trump can’t give a straight answer about abortion. The most pro-life policy he has proposed in this election cycle is a baby bonus, which would give families money for having babies. It’s a solid idea that eschews Republican orthodoxy and helps address the demand side of the issue. Even so, we won’t see any Trump-branded Make Abortion Illegal Again hats anytime soon.
Also, LGBT issues are lower on the priority list for Trump than other Republicans. Issues regarding transgenderism were not a huge part of the Trump agenda during his presidency. During his 2016 campaign, Trump received flak for saying Caitlyn Jenner should use the women’s bathroom at Trump Tower. Meanwhile, the DeSantis press team calls people groomers for wanting LGBT-inclusive education. It's an awful term that detracts from an important issue—the politicization of the classroom—and equates liberalism with pedophilia. I agree with DeSantis politically on this and think the so-called Don't Say Gay bill didn’t go nearly far enough (Gender Queer and the Genderbread Person don't belong in taxpayer-funded institutions), but the stupid rhetoric hurts the cause. Trump doesn’t call people groomers.
Compared to DeSantis, Trump is the moderate Republican in 2024 presidential, and he has a point about DeSantis’s electability issues—although Trump isn’t helping by harping on the “stolen” 2020 election. DeSantis needs to run to Trump’s right to win the primary, but that would make defeating even Biden in a general election.