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How war in Ukraine is shaping the 2024 Republican presidential race

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and former President Donald Trump have similar stances on the war in Ukraine, but that's not the case for other issues.
Posted at 8:05 PM, Mar 17, 2023

Declared or not, one of most interesting dynamics of the emerging 2024 primary is how top Republicans are sparring — not just with each other, but also with party leaders in Washington over foreign policy.

"I don't think it's in our interests to be getting into a proxy war with China getting involved," Gov. Ron DeSantis, (R) Florida, said on "Fox & Friends."

DeSantis is widely expected to launch his presidential campaign in the coming months. He's drawn harsh criticism from Republicans on Capitol Hill for saying support for Ukraine is not in the U.S. vital interests.

"I think he's mistaken, and I hope he reconsiders. But it is troubling, yes," said Sen. Roger Wicker, (R) Mississippi.

"I believe it's very much in the interest of America to honor our word," said Sen. Mitt Romney, (R) Utah. "We made a commitment in writing to Ukraine and its people that we would assure the sovereignty of that nation, and we're fulfilling that commitment."

"To say this doesn't matter is to say that war crimes don't matter," Sen. Lindsey Graham, (R) South Carolina.

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DeSantis' stance, however, echoes former President Donald Trump, who answered the same Fox News questionnaire and said opposing Russia in Ukraine was of vital interest for Europe but not the U.S.

"Every day this proxy battle in Ukraine continues we risk global war," Trump said. "We must be absolutely clear that our objective is to immediately have a total cessation of hostilities."

The comments come amid a complex and changing public perception of the war in Ukraine.

A recent Gallup survey found a majority of Republican voters believe the Russia-Ukraine conflict does represent a threat to U.S. vital interests. But a number of other surveys have shown GOP voters are growing weary of sending more weapons and financial aid to Kyiv.

Other notable 2024 Republican contenders — like former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley and former Vice President Mike Pence, who is considering a run — have broken with Trump and DeSantis on the issue of Ukraine.

"The war in Ukraine is not a territorial dispute; it's a Russian invasion," Pence said.

Both Haley and Pence say the U.S. should support Kyiv but should not be sending "blank checks" to continue to fund the war effort.

Though the two are so far aligned on the issue of Ukraine, that's not the case for other top issues, and DeSantis has seen his poll numbers slipping compared to Trump's in recent weeks.