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Politico
POLITICO
5 Aug 2023
Andrew Zhang


NextImg:DeSantis touts record against antisemitism in New Hampshire

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis pushed back strongly against criticism that his presidential campaign has attracted the support of far-right political groups.

“Those are not true supporters of mine,” DeSantis said Friday at a campaign stop in New Hampshire in response to a woman who asked about protests where people have flown DeSantis flags and Nazi flags together. “That is an operation to try to link me to something so that it smears me.”

In June, a group of protestors flew several flags with swastikas alongside a “DeSantis 2024” banner outside Disney World in Orlando. His campaign in July laid off a staffer who had made and distributed DeSantis promotional material that featured a symbol that Nazis used.

During a prerecorded town hall that aired on Friday night, DeSantis was quick to distance himself from the idea that his campaign was associated with supporters who espoused antisemitic viewpoints.

“There’s been nobody that’s been stronger on these issues in any part of the country than me,” DeSantis said, citing his record on beefing up Holocaust education standards in Florida and his fierce opposition of the BDS movement, a Palestinian-led effort that aims to economically constrain Israel.

Additionally, in the wide-ranging conversation on New Hampshire television station WMUR, DeSantis continued railing against critics of Florida’s new Black history education curriculum and said he wouldn’t substantively change Social Security.

With its key, first-in-nation primary, New Hampshire offers DeSantis a pivotal opportunity to gain a leg up when the contest is held early next year as he struggles to usurp former President Donald Trump’s wide lead in the Republican race.

A July poll found that DeSantis sits at 23 percent support in the Granite State — 14 points behind Donald Trump, who held 37 percent support in the survey. Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) was the third-placing candidate with 8 percent. But nationwide, Trump is dominating the field with 54 percent support, holding a 37-point lead over DeSantis, according to a recent New York Times survey.

In the past month, Democrats, most notably Vice President Kamala Harris, and several prominent Black Republicans have hit the governor over his state’s recently passed Black history education standards. They include a line instructing that enslaved people developed skills that, “in some instances, could be applied for their personal benefit.”

DeSantis on Friday doubled down on his support for the curriculum.

“If you read the standards that they created, they showed every detail about the injustice of slavery. That is just the facts, and so this is another one of those phony narratives,” DeSantis said. “We eliminated critical race theory through our K-12 schools. We were then accused of not wanting to teach about Black history.”

In response to an audience question, DeSantis also promised to “make it work” for anyone who relies on Social Security, citing the importance of the program for the older demographics of his state.

His recent comments defending the program are a slight departure from his previous stances criticizing the program, for which he has taken heat while on the 2024 trail. When he was a member of Congress, DeSantis supported a resolution that would raise the full retirement age for Medicare and Social Security to 70.

“Anybody who’s on Social Security, we’re going to make it work for you. So don’t worry about benefit cuts. Don’t worry about any changes to that,” DeSantis said. “I’m not sure that doing something on that retirement age when life expectancy is collapsing is something that would make sense.”

“You can’t privatize,” DeSantis also said about the program.