DES MOINES, Iowa – They exchanged gunfire from behind the podium on stage at the Republican presidential debate.
But his White House rivals, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, former ambassador and former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, and biotech entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy, announced on Friday that they are appealing to large groups of socially conservative voters. We sat together around the same table to have completely different discussions in front of us. In Iowa, the caucuses mark the beginning of the 2024 Republican presidential nominating calendar.
All three candidates spoke at a presidential appreciation forum hosted by Family Leader, a politically active and influential social conservative group in a state where evangelical voters play a large role in Republican politics. shared personal and sometimes emotional stories.
And while each candidate expressed opposition to legalized abortion, they spotlighted the hardships endured in bearing children.
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“I actually had never shared this story before,” Ramaswamy said of his wife Apoorva’s first pregnancy.
“After about three and a half months… one day she woke up and was bleeding. She miscarried. We lost our first child,” Ramaswamy said.
After a while, he motioned for his young son to come on stage.
DeSantis also addressed his wife Casey’s miscarriage and spoke publicly for the first time about how they prayed for a child during a trip to Israel shortly after their wedding.
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“We returned to the United States and a short time later I became pregnant,” DeSantis continued. “But unfortunately, we lost our first baby.”
Hailey also talked about her difficulties getting pregnant.
And Haley doubled down on her stance on abortion during last week’s third Republican presidential debate, in which she implored Americans to find consensus on abortion restrictions.
Bob Vander Plaats, president and CEO of Family Leader, said Haley’s debate comments sounded “pro-choice” to some evangelicals, and that presidential candidates “Please assure them why that is not a pro-choice answer.”
Haley reiterated that she is “unapologetically pro-life” and stressed that “our overall goal is how we can save as many babies as possible and support as many mothers as possible.”
“I want you to look at my entire record as governor. I want to ensure that women don’t have to wait until they get an ultrasound before making a decision, even if it’s a painful bill. I fought for it my whole life, whether it was a bill or not,” Haley said. She was at the helm of South Carolina for two terms, she noted.
“They said I was the most anti-pro-life ambassador ever to represent the United States at the United Nations, because we “I did everything I could,” he said. Please ensure that our tax dollars are never used for things that take that life or for abortion. ”
When Vander Plaats asked Haley if she would have signed the six-week abortion bill into law when she was governor, she quickly responded, “Yes.” Whatever people decide, you should. ”
“I think it’s the right thing to do that it’s in the hands of the people. I think the people decided to put this in the states, and that’s the way it should be. Everyone has a voice.”
With nine weeks left until the first vote in the Republican presidential nomination race, the candidate remains in the driver’s seat.
Nicole Schlinger, a longtime Iowa-based strategist with close ties to evangelicals, told Fox News: “I think this is the answer Iowans have been waiting for from Ambassador Haley on life’s issues… I think that was very positive.”
“Governor DeSantis really came alive in the second half of this forum,” added Schlinger, who is neutral in the race for the Republican presidential nomination. “This crowd was very pro-DeSantis. He got the loudest applause.”
Haley and DeSantis have clashed repeatedly in recent weeks as they battle for second place in the polls behind Trump, who remains the front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination, but there were no fireworks on Friday. There wasn’t.
And the recent conflict between Haley and Ramaswamy was also not evident at the forum.
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“You don’t want to know what’s wrong with your opponent,” said forum moderator Vander Plaats, explaining the basic rules. “I want to have an adult conversation about the future of this country.”
President Trump was invited to the forum but declined to attend. It was the second major presidential call hosted by a family leader that Trump missed this year. The former president is scheduled to return to Iowa on Saturday to lead a rally.
The forum was briefly interrupted by climate change protesters chanting “Repent! Repent!”
“How can we talk about being pro-life when our children’s futures are on fire?” protesters are led from the downtown Des Moines hotel ballroom where the event was held. I said that before.
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