Dem 51
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Republicans Are Divided on Ukraine

A issue that may divide Republicans in next year's primaries is what to do about the war in Ukraine, assuming the war is still ongoing then. Some Republicans, starting with Nikki Haley, see the war as a fight for freedom and fully support Ukraine. Haley, who was U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and is quite interested in (and knowledgeable about) foreign policy, wants to stick it to Russia. She sees the war as freedom vs. autocracy and said if Vladimir Putin gets Ukraine, the Baltic countries are next in line and China will take Taiwan. Her foreign policy is a good match for the Republican Party's—during the Reagan Administration. It is all about containing Communism, especially Russia and China. Everything else is secondary. (Well, OK, containing Iran is a close second, but everything else is tertiary. Or maybe even quaternary. Or quinary.) Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), who has been around the track a few times before, is with her. He sees giving Ukraine modern weapons as a way to weaken Russia without spilling any American blood. He also sees American support for Ukraine as a warning to China not to mess with Taiwan. Maybe his Taiwan-born wife, Elaine Chao, gave him some suggestions about that. We don't know.

Other potential Republican presidential candidates are less enthusiastic about helping Ukraine. Donald Trump's "America First" policy is well-known. His view is that America has no business meddling in other countries' wars. Now Ron DeSantis has chimed in. He recently told Fox: "I don't think it's in our interest to be getting into a proxy war with China, getting involved over things like the borderlands or over Crimea."

Although such pronouncements will be well received in some Republican quarters, DeSantis has to be careful about that. He was a founding member of the House Freedom caucus and there is plenty of footage of him taking hawkish positions on Russia and China. Over and over. For years. Ads showing him saying: "Russia is evil and must be beaten" following by "Russia is none of our business" followed by more "Russian is evil and must be beaten" followed by more "Russia is none of our business" aren't hard to make. They will surely all end with: "DeSantis doesn't stand for anything and You can't trust a word he says." Here is an example clip of DeSantis attacking Putin in no uncertain terms. There are plenty more.

It will be impossible for DeSantis to avoid this issue, as Haley will harp on it and call him out as a flip-flopper. What can he say in response? "I used to know that Russia was evil but I have since learned what a nice guy Putin is?" That won't fly. Going from dove to hawk works. Going from hawk to dove does not work in the middle of a war instigated by Putin in order to rebuild the Russian empire (which is the topic DeSantis addresses in the video clip above).

As we have mentioned before, DeSantis has not been tested on the national stage yet. We have yet to see what happens when he has to deal with serious and more experienced opponents from outside Florida. Like Trump, for example. Just wait until Trump starts hitting DeSantis hard for using alcohol to ply teenage girls at the school he once taught at, while Haley hammers him with "soft on Russia and China." (V)

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