FIRST ON DAILY SIGNAL: A super PAC supporting 2024 presidential candidate Ron DeSantis is launching an ad campaign Thursday accusing former President Donald Trump of splitting from the pro-life movement on abortion.
Never Back Down’s campaign ad, which draws on Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds’ support for her state’s heartbeat law, will target Trump as the former president speaks on the ground in Iowa on Thursday. Trump has drawn backlash for suggesting that Florida’s heartbeat law is “too harsh.”
The ad includes a clip of Bob Vander Plaats, a long-time pro-life activist who leads the Iowa-based conservative group The Family Leader, saying that Trump “alienates himself from the pro-life community by saying Ron DeSantis, who signed a heartbeat bill in the state of Florida, that that was too harsh.”
“The pro-life community expects better than that,” Vander Plaats says.
Never Back Down plans to promote the message through a billboard ad, a mobile billboard truck, and a digital ad, running the video on Facebook in about a 1-mile radius around the locations where Trump will be in Iowa on Thursday.
The PAC will text the video to Iowa GOP primary voters and feature the billboard ad on the street along the road near Trump’s events. That billboard reads: “Iowa protects children with heartbeats … but Trump says that’s ‘too harsh.’” The video ad will also be seen by GOP primary voters on certain websites and across several streaming networks on voters’ TVs or devices like laptops, iPads, and phones.
During her introduction of DeSantis on Tuesday night, Reynolds praised him for signing Florida’s heartbeat bill: “The same heartbeat bill that I was proud to sign into law in 2018.”
While Trump’s recent remarks have provoked concerns from pro-life groups that he does not support strong legislation protecting life, he has previously been heralded as the most pro-life president in American history—and he will always have the lasting legacy of overturning Roe v. Wade.
Trump also made history as the first president to attend the national March for Life in person, appointed a slew of pro-life judges throughout his time as president, signed an executive order protecting infants born alive through botched abortions, significantly cut Planned Parenthood’s funding, and more.
DeSantis signed Florida’s heartbeat bill into law in April, banning most abortions if the unborn baby has a heartbeat. Some Republicans have suggested that DeSantis’ signing of the law would destroy his chances on the national stage, but the move was widely applauded by pro-life groups.
The bill signing followed controversy over former Trump’s midterm-elections abortion analysis, when the former president suggested that abortion tanked GOP performances last year.
“It wasn’t my fault that the Republicans didn’t live up to expectations in the MidTerms,” Trump said in a Truth Social post in early January. “I was 233-20! It was the ‘abortion issue,’ poorly handled by many Republicans, especially those that firmly insisted on No Exceptions, even in the case of Rape, Incest, or Life of the Mother, that lost large numbers of Voters.”
“Also, the people that pushed so hard, for decades, against abortion, got their wish from the U.S. Supreme Court, & just plain disappeared, not to be seen again,” added the former president, who has not responded to requests for comment.
His remarks prompted concerns that GOP leaders would avoid discussing abortion during subsequent elections. Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America issued a statement at the time noting that “the approach to winning on abortion in federal races, proven for a decade is this: State clearly the ambitious consensus pro-life position and contrast that with the extreme view of Democrat opponents.”
On April 20, Trump campaign spokesman Steven Cheung further startled pro-life groups by telling The Washington Post that Trump “believes that the Supreme Court, led by the three Justices which he supported, got it right when they ruled this [abortion] an issue that should be decided at the State level.”
In early May, Trump told The Messenger of Florida’s heartbeat bill: “If you look at what DeSantis did, a lot of people don’t even know if he knew what he was doing. But he signed six weeks, and many people within the pro-life movement feel that that was too harsh.”
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