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MYRTLE BEACH — Presidential candidate Ron DeSantis went on the offensive during his Oct. 20 stop in Myrtle Beach.
The Florida governor blasted America’s response to the Israel-Hamas war, and specifically President Joe Biden’s plan to send $100 million to the Gaza Strip for humanitarian aid.
“They say it’s for humanitarian purposes, not for terrorism, but Hamas is going to commandeer that money,” DeSantis said, though he offered no evidence to back up that claim. “While we still have people that are being held hostage by Hamas — Americans, Israelis, others are being held hostage — I can tell you this, the proper amount of money to send to Hamas is not one red cent.”
The surprise attack by Hamas on Oct. 7 prompted Israel to declare war. Israel sent thousands of missiles into Gaza, and more than 4,100 people have been killed there, many of them children, according to The Associated Press.
Biden reaffirmed U.S. support for Israel during a visit there this week and politely cautioned Israel against succumbing to an “all-consuming rage.”
Israel shut off all supplies, water and power to Gaza soon after the Oct. 7 attacks, raising alarms internationally. On Oct. 18, Israel agreed to allow Egypt to deliver limited quantities of humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said the decision to lift the 10-day siege was approved after a request from Biden. It said Israel “will not thwart” food, water or medicine deliveries from Egypt, as long as they are limited to civilians in the south of the Gaza Strip and don’t go to Hamas militants. The statement did not mention fuel, according to The Associated Press.
During his Myrtle Beach appearance, DeSantis said the U.S. should not support refugees from Palestine because it would “import the problem” into the U.S. He also criticized those who have protested in favor of Palestine and against the Israeli occupation of Gaza.
“Some of these people that are out there demonstrating are foreigners who are in this country on a student visa,” DeSantis said. “I can tell you this, when I’m your president, anyone who’s a foreigner on a visa, if they’re going to get common cause with Hamas, I’m revoking the visa.”
DeSantis also touted his decision to evacuate Floridians from Israel. Last week, he signed an executive order prompting multiple evacuation flights from Israel to Florida, though questions have been raised over how many Floridians actually arrived and the cost to taxpayers.
DeSantis quickly segued from the Israel discussion to the U.S.-Mexico border. He claimed without evidence that there will be a “terrorist attack in this country that we will be able to trace back to the open border.”
DeSantis described an “invasion” of people crossing the border illegally, calling them drug cartel members who will bring human trafficking, sex trafficking and deadly drugs like fentanyl.
“I’m going to authorize to treat them as an enemy force,” DeSantis said. “We’re going to authorize the use of deadly force against the cartels. When I have someone from the cartel trying to break through our wall or break through into our country with that fentanyl on their back, we’re going to shoot them stone cold dead.”
Echoing GOP frontrunner and former President Donald Trump, DeSantis said he planned to “build the border wall and actually have Mexico pay for it.” He said the U.S would use fees from remittance payments, sent from people in America to those in Mexico, Central America and South America, to build the border wall.
After not visiting South Carolina for nearly three months, DeSantis has made several recent campaign stops in the Palmetto State. He visited Anderson and Rock Hill on Oct. 19, followed by a stop in Murrells Inlet at a local VFW early Oct. 20 before hitting downtown Myrtle Beach.
The visits marked the launch of the “Veterans for DeSantis Coalition” — an extension of his “Mission First” plan aimed at ending policies in the military he has dubbed “woke.” DeSantis served as a Navy lawyer.
The stops come as DeSantis’ poll numbers have fallen in South Carolina, according to the Winthrop University poll. After previously polling at 20%, he dropped to 12% in October, sitting behind former S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley, who rose to 17%. Trump has maintained the lead with 50%.
Despite his lagging poll numbers, those who attended DeSantis’ Myrtle Beach rally maintain he still has a shot at the Republican nomination.
Mark Brandes of Little River said he likes the way DeSantis has governed Florida, especially his position of “anti-wokeness.”
“We’ll vote for whoever wins the (Republican) primary, but I hope that it’s him,” Brandes said.
Carla Censullo of Myrtle Beach attended the rally to show her support for DeSantis. She said she was not initially a supporter of the Florida governor, but she has been impressed by his leadership in the Sunshine State.
She said some of her friends have moved to Florida, and she knows others who want to live there because of his policies.
Although Censullo said she doesn’t pay much attention to candidate polls, she thinks DeSantis’ numbers could be dropping because of his likeability. She said Haley, whom she described as a “down-home South Carolina gal,” has an advantage there.
“He’s just not that likeable,” Censullo said. “I think DeSantis could really benefit from learning how to talk to you and not at you.”