Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has explained why he seemed reluctant to raise his hand when, during last week’s Republican primary debate, a moderator asked the candidates to raise their hands if they would support former President Donald Trump even if he was convicted.
One of the more striking moments of the Aug. 23 debate in Milwaukee was when Fox News moderator Bret Baier asked the candidates to raise their hands if they would support President Trump even if convicted, which came as the former president faces multiple criminal indictments.
President Trump, who did not attend the debate, faces charges in Georgia related to alleged election interference over a phone call he made to the secretary of state asking him to find more votes, while a grand jury in Florida has indicted him on charges of allegedly mishandling national defense secrets.
In both cases, the former president maintains he’s innocent and is being subjected to a “witch hunt” meant to hamstring his campaign for president in the 2024 election.
On the debate stage, when candidates were asked by Mr. Baier to gesticulate their support for President Trump even if convicted, Mr. DeSantis looked on and, after a few moments, raised his hand, though a number of observers noted that he seemed to keep it low and the gesture seemed half-hearted.
Overall, six of the eight candidates expressed their backing for President Trump onstage, with former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie wagging his finger ambiguously and former Arizona Gov. Asa Hutchinson refusing to raise his hand and then sharply criticizing the former president, drawing boos from the audience.
‘Are We Really Doing This?’
Asked by reporters several days after the debate what caused him to seem reluctant to raise his hand, Mr. DeSantis explained that he objected to the idea of being asked to perform gestures on stage as a way of expressing his viewpoint on the issue—especially since he previously signed a pledge to support the eventual Republican nominee, regardless who it may be.
“I objected to doing the hand raise. And I thought most of the candidates seemed to agree with me,” Mr. DeSantis said.
“And so I was like, okay, are we really doing this? And people were doing it, so I made the pledge,” Mr. DeSantis said before emphasizing that he had signed a pledge to support the Republican nominee.
“I don’t sign pledges and not follow through,” Mr. DeSantis insisted.
In signing the pledge, Mr. DeSantis agreed that if he does not become the official GOP presidential nominee for the 2024 election, he will “honor the will of the primary voters and support the nominee in order to save our country and beat Joe Biden.”
However, in a telling remark made while responding to the reporter asking him about the reluctant-looking hand gesture, Mr. DeSantis said that he does not believe President Trump would receive the Republican nomination if he was convicted.
“I don’t think he would be the nominee at that point,” Mr. DeSantis said. “But I signed the pledge, and that’s just the reality of the situation.”
‘Not Going to Be Bullied’
A body language expert shed some light on why Mr. DeSantis’ hand gesture may have seemed half-hearted.
Susan Constantine, author of “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Reading Body Language,” said in a recent interview with The Epoch Times that Mr. DeSantis’ speaking style and gestures indicate he tends to push back when he thinks someone is trying to strong-arm him into something he doesn’t want to do.
Mr. DeSantis’ body language communicates that “he’s not going to be bullied, and he doesn’t have any fear of standing up to voice a dispute,” Ms. Constantine said.
It also suggests “he has a very strong moral compass. And he also has a very strong opinions.”
She also has gleaned from his body language that “he’s very internal. He’s an internal thinker. And those types of people tend to be more serious. And when they’re serious, they’re not emoting as much. They just don’t tend to over-emote.”
Polling shows President Trump far ahead of the rest of the pack, with Mr. DeSantis consistently placing second, with the debate changing the picture very little.
An Ipsos poll taken Aug. 24-25 put President Trump at 52 percent, with Mr. DeSantis at 13 percent, followed by former Vice President Mike Pence (6 percent) and businessman Vivek Ramaswamy at 5 percent.
An Emerson College poll showed President Trump in the lead with 50 percent, followed by Mr. DeSantis (12 percent), Mr. Ramaswamy (9 percent), and Vice President Pence (7 percent).
President Trump has been charged in four criminal cases. This involves 34 felony counts in New York on allegations of falsifying business records, 40 felony counts in Florida relating to keeping government documents at his Mar-a-Lago home, 13 felony counts in Georgia over allegations of election interference, and four felony counts in Washington DC for efforts to challenge the results of the 2020 election.