Ron DeSantis has made a definitive choice to align himself with those Republicans and conservatives who are at the least skeptical and at the most hostile to American and NATO efforts on behalf of Ukraine in its struggle to keep itself from being swallowed whole by Russia. His answer to a Tucker Carlson questionnaire described Russia’s aggression as a “territorial dispute” and said that America “becoming further entangled” in Ukraine’s defense was not in our national interest. He therefore opposes the loan or use of American F-16s in the conflict, as it could, he said, “risk drawing America” directly into the conflict. He then attacked the “DC foreign policy interventionists” who might be pursuing “regime change” in Russia—and said our policies so far have pushed Russia “into a de facto” alliance with China.

A few weeks ago, DeSantis told the Fox News morning show he opposed giving Ukraine a “blank check”—which Ukraine is not being given, by the way, as one prominent person who joins with DeSantis in opposing the deployment of F-16s is none other than President Joe Biden. He spoke a couple of days after Senator Josh Hawley gave a speech in which he said we should cut Ukraine off entirely and focus all our foreign-policy moves toward and against China. I wrote a post here in which I said, “you can see how tempting the Hawley position is going to be for the key entrant, Ron DeSantis. It sounds hawkish—we need to dedicate all our resources to stopping China—while actually being isolationist.”

And that is exactly where DeSantis has gone. Moreover, he’s done so in a way that completely contradicts several years of hawkishness on his own part when it came to staring down Russia on the matter of Ukraine. Statements during his time as a member of Congress from 2015 and 2017 show him condemning the Obama administration for its weakness on the matter. Granted, it’s six years later. And granted, people’s views can change. But usually a politician will try to offer some sort of clarity on the change. DeSantis has merely flip-flopped, and we all know why, and so does he. He’s trying to ride a wave of opinion inside the GOP on this matter while denying Donald Trump an isolationist weapon to use against him over the next year.

Here’s the thing, though. DeSantis and his people may believe that the anti-interventionist argument in Ukraine is far more fixed in the Republican political mind than is actually the case. Two data points tell the tale. First, a new CNN poll of Republicans shows only 9 percent of them view foreign policy as the most important issue in the coming presidential election. That means there isn’t a lot of heat when it comes to Ukraine-Russia one way or the other. A majority of Republicans supports Ukraine’s efforts to reclaim territory from Russia even if that prolongs the conflict, 53-41 percent, according to Gallup. Only a third support increased financial and military assistance, it’s true, but they’re still on Ukraine’s side in this conflict.

That means the Republican view is far from fixed, and far from determined. Which, in turn, means a candidate for president like DeSantis has far more running room on this issue than natcon/tradcon/Carlsoncon world would have you believe. DeSantis is a good politician, obviously, and he may have a natural feel for this matter that I don’t have. But in his Twitter-friendly statement and his media team’s Twitter-besotted behavior, you can also see the way his team might be finding itself led by the loudest social-media voices rather than trying to lead them. If that’s the case, that’s a bad sign for DeSantis, who needs to run his own race.

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