Ron DeSantis vs Donald Trump: Where they stand on key issues

Gun Rights

Ron DeSantis has formally announced his run for the White House, putting him on a collision course with Donald Trump.

The outspoken Florida governor has embraced Mr Trump’s combative style and casts himself as a younger and more electable version of the former US president.

But how do the two Republican candidates compare on the key issues in the 2024 presidential election?

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The right to bear arms continues to loom large over Republican politics

Credit: Dan Callister

Ron DeSantis

Mr DeSantis has sought to roll back restrictions on gun ownership, a stance that makes use of one of Mr Trump’s key weaknesses.

If he wins the Republican nomination, Mr DeSantis would likely be the most vocal candidate on shielding the second amendment in recent presidential cycles.

In Florida, he is currently pushing legislation that would allow residents in the state to carry concealed firearms in public without a permit or requirements for training.

Donald Trump

Mr Trump meanwhile has a more complex history on legislation around gun.

During his time in the White House, Mr Trump voiced support for tougher checks on firearms purchasers but later dropped this stance. He also once proposed raising the minimum age to buy guns to 21.

In 2017, he angered gun-rights supporters by imposing a ban on bump stocks, a device which allows a shooter to fire a semi-automatic weapon much more rapidly, after one was used in a mass shooting in Las Vegas.

Despite this, Mr Trump has received praise for putting conservative judges who are inclined to protect gun rights on the federal bench.

Earlier this month, he vowed to defend and expand gun owners’ rights in a speech to the National Rifle Association’s annual meeting.

The overturning of Roe v. Wade last year marked a distinct turn in US abortion law

Credit: Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images

Donald Trump

Mr DeSantis and Mr Trump have also clashed on the issue of abortion.

Although Mr Trump delivered the most significant victory in the anti-abortion movement’s history by nominating the three Supreme Court justices who voted to overturn Roe v. Wade, he has drawn criticism for refusing to adopt a stance on national legislation.

Mr Trump muddled his position even further by declining to say what the limit on abortion should be during the recent CNN town hall debate in New Hampshire.

“Some people are at six weeks, some people are at three weeks, two weeks,” Mr Trump said.

Ron DeSantis

Meanwhile, Mr DeSantis signed a bill banning abortion after six weeks in Florida earlier this year, hitting out at Mr Trump’s criticism that the state’s abortion restrictions were “too harsh”.

“I was proud to do it. He won’t answer whether he would sign it or not,” he said.

Mr Trump famously promised to build a ‘big, beautiful wall’ between Mexico and the US

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Ron DeSantis

Mr DeSantis also takes a tougher line than Mr Trump on illegal immigration.

During the CNN town hall, supporters of Mr DeSantis cheered as host Kaitlan Collins probed Mr Trump over his failure to complete the border wall.

Mr DeSantis has said he wants a wall to be completed, a reminder of an unfulfilled promise of Mr Trump’s first term.

Earlier this month, Mr DeSantis signed into law an extensive crackdown on unlawful immigration in Florida.

Under the new bill, companies with more than 25 employees must check the legal status of workers against a federal database called E-Verify.

The law also stipulates that relatives or friends who take undocumented immigrants to a hospital, school or anywhere else can be charged as human smugglers.

Donald Trump

As a candidate in 2016, Mr Trump vowed to “strengthen and expand” E-verify but later said it was a difficult process for many employers to run.

Many Republican voters are opposed to further US support for Ukraine

Credit: Susan Walsh/AP Photo

Ron DeSantis

Both Mr DeSantis and Mr Trump are opposed to supporting Ukraine in its fight against Russia, with neither seeing the war as a vital interest for the US.

Mr DeSantis has said that he does not want to see US troops involved and that there is not “sufficient interest for us to escalate more involvement”.

But he also criticised Vladimir Putin, calling him a “war criminal” who should be “held accountable” for initiating the war. 

Donald Trump

Mr Trump responded by defending Putin, saying that Mr DeSantis’s comments were “exactly the kind of simple-minded thinking that has produced decades of failed diplomacy and ultimately war”.

Many Republican voters believe the US is providing too much support for Ukraine.

Both candidates have been hawkish in the past towards Beijing

Credit: Olivier Douliery/AFP

Ron DeSantis

During a recent trip to Japan, South Korea, Israel and Britain, Mr DeSantis portrayed China as being locked in a new Cold War with the West and pushed for action to counter Beijing’s rise.

“Our economy is dependent on China and it’s given them more leverage and more power as a result. So we do need to assert our economic sovereignty. Part of that is bringing supply chains home and getting more stuff here as we build up our military which you know, I know this president won’t do, but we need to do,” he said.

In May, he signed three bills to “counteract the influence of the Chinese Communist Party in the state of Florida”.

The bill bans Chinese citizens from buying land in the state unless they are also American citizens or permanent residents, as well as restricting those using government devices and servers from downloading applications including the Chinese-owned TikTok.

Donald Trump

Mr Trump is credited with shifting the American political consensus toward confronting China and has promised to continue opposing Beijing if he returns to the White House.

He is calling for the removal of China’s most-favoured-nation trade status, as well as the phasing out of all Chinese imports of pharmaceuticals, electronics, steel and other essential goods over four years.

The question of transgender rights continues to divide America

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Donald Trump

Both Mr Trump and Mr DeSantis have been vocal about their opposition to transgender rights.

When he announced his White House bid in November, Mr Trump said schools were endorsing “gender insanity” by letting trans women and girls compete in female sports.

Speaking to the National Rifle Association in May, Mr Trump promised to use the federal government’s powers to investigate gender-reassignment care for transgender Americans.

Ron DeSantis

Mr DeSantis restricted trans rights in Florida by signing a bill last year that opponents have described as the “Don’t Say Gay” law.

It bans teachers from discussing sexual orientation and gender identity to children with primary school children.

Mr DeSantis has also banned gender transition treatment for minors.

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