President Donald Trump and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis will share the stage at a conservative political conference in Washington on Sept. 15, giving attendees a rare side-by-side comparison of the two frontrunners for the Republican presidential nomination.
The event, Pray, Vote, Stand, comes less than a week after supporters of Mr. DeSantis jeered President Trump at an Iowa football game, upping the gamesmanship displayed by Trump supporters at the Iowa State Fair in August, who heckled the Florida governor.
The conference is organized by Family Research Council, an evangelical think tank with an affiliated lobbying arm, and is billed as “a national gathering of spiritually active, governance engaged conservatives.”
Former Vice President Mike Pence and entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy will also speak at the event, along with several Republican members of Congress, prominent evangelical pastors, and conservative activists.
The setting will be an opportunity for all four candidates to test their message with Evangelical Christians, a key constituency for Republican presidential hopefuls.
Among the Christian candidates, Mr. Pence has been the most outspoken about his faith. Both he and Mr. DeSantis have taken subtle aim at President Trump for statements he has made regarding abortion, a primary concern for Evangelicals.
Mr. Pence took issue with President Trump’s statement that abortion should be left to the states to decide, saying: “The Supreme Court didn’t turn the issue of abortion over to the states; they turned it over to the American people.”
After Mr. DeSantis signed a ban on the procedure in Florida after six weeks of pregnancy, President Trump commented that the measure seemed “too harsh.”
Mr. DeSantis responded to reports by pointing out that President Trump was a Florida resident and had refused to say whether he would sign the bill.
Mr. Ramaswamy, a Hindu, supports a six-week ban at the state level.
President Trump, who appointed three pro-life justices to the Supreme Court, frequently refers to himself as “the most pro-life president in history.”
Gamesmanship by Proxy
President Trump consistently leads GOP presidential contenders in national polls, garnering 56 percentage points in an average of recent polls. Mr. DeSantis placed a distant second at 13 percent.
Though direct attacks toward one another have been guarded, supporters of the two candidates have increased the campaign rhetoric at recent events where both appeared.
Supporters of Mr. DeSantis jeered President Trump, one making a rude gesture, when he attended the Iowa vs. Iowa State football game in Ames, Iowa, on Sept. 9. President Trump sat in a luxury box while Mr. DeSantis sat in the stands with Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds.
Overhead, a plane towed a banner reading “Where’s Melania?” a reference to the former president’s wife missing from the campaign trail.
On Aug. 12, supporters of President Trump heckled Mr. DeSantis at the Iowa State Fair.
As the governor grilled pork chops and attempted to engage fairgoers, some Trump supporters chanted “We want Trump” as others stood by with hats that said, “Trump Won.”
Overhead, a plane trailed a banner reading, “Be likable, Ron!” in an apparent reference to Mr. DeSantis’s perceived social awkwardness.
Later, as Ms. Reynolds attempted to interview Mr. DeSantis, protesters disrupted the event with cowbells and whistles, prompting an admonition from Ms. Reynolds to be “Iowa nice.”
The tit-for-tat exchanges may have originated at the Lincoln Dinner in Des Moines, Iowa, on July 28, where both candidates spoke along with a host of other GOP hopefuls.
In his remarks as the evening’s last speaker, President Trump referred to Mr. DeSantis as “Ron DeSanctus,” prompting boos from some DeSantis supporters.
Mr. Pence is scheduled to speak at Pray, Vote, Stand on the afternoon of Sept. 15. Mr. DeSantis and President Trump are scheduled to speak back-to-back in that evening’s session. Mr. Ramaswamy is scheduled to appear on the morning of Sept. 16.