DeSantis and Scott sound off on Israel, and more campaign trail tidbits

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(WASHINGTON) -- Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott, both 2024 Republican candidates, sounded off further on the Israel-Hamas war as President Joe Biden traveled to Israel to support the U.S. ally.

Meanwhile, Illinois' Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker seized on reproductive rights, one of his party's top rallying cries for voters, amid ongoing speculation that he has future aspirations beyond Springfield.

Here are tidbits from the campaign trail from Wednesday:

DeSantis, Scott go after Biden on Israel

DeSantis and Scott appeared to try to burnish their conservative bona fides on Israel on Wednesday, bashing Biden over his handling of the latest conflict as he flew into a war zone to meet directly with leaders there.

DeSantis lambasted the $100 million in humanitarian aid the White House supports sending to the Palestinian territories of Gaza and the West Bank, arguing that the funds -- rather than aiding civilians caught up in the fighting -- will go toward helping Hamas extremists.

"We know Hamas is going to commandeer that money, and Hamas is going to use it to advance terrorism. I say no U.S. tax dollars to the Gaza Strip," the governor said in a statement.

Biden has said that the aid will be cut off if there's any evidence that Hamas is siphoning it off, but former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, who has engaged in a back-and-forth with DeSantis, mocked the statement, touting the 2018 move while she was in the Trump administration to eliminate funds to the U.N. agency responsible for humanitarian aid to Palestinians.

Meanwhile, Scott accused Biden of not supporting Israel enough, contending that the president needed a "backbone."

Biden on Wednesday gave an impassioned speech in which he vowed to back Israel while urging its response to not be driven by "rage."

"You can't look at what has happened here ... and not scream out for justice," Biden said. "Justice must be done. But I caution this: While you feel that rage, don't be consumed by it. After 9/11, we were enraged in the United States. While we sought justice and got justice, we also made mistakes."

New push on reproductive rights could produce new presidential chatter

Pritzker, the two-term Illinois governor and billionaire hotel heir, launched Think Big America, which will focus on protecting abortion access across the country and supporting ballot initiatives to enshrine protections for the procedure into state constitutions.

The group is already "actively engaged" in the campaign for an Ohio ballot measure that would codify abortion protections in the state as well as in Nevada and Arizona to support their ongoing ballot measure efforts, a spokeswoman for the group said.

Seizing on a top motivator for Democrats is likely to continue to raise Pritzker's profile, though he has played down any chance of immediately running for higher office.

Candidate redo in Arizona

Arizona Republican Rep. Debbie Lesko's retirement is setting off a new primary with some old names.

Lesko's seat, located in a deep red Phoenix-area district, has already drawn a bid from Abe Hamadeh, who still baselessly claims victory in Arizona's race for attorney general last year despite narrowly losing.

"Our country is in desperate need of courageous fighters, and that's why I'm proud to announce I'm running for Congress in Arizona's 8th District," Hamadeh wrote on X.

An aide close to Hamadeh said he will enter the race with support from Donald Trump allies including Kari Lake and former Trump official Ric Grenell, two firebrands with ties to the former president.

A source close to the influential Club for Growth confirms to ABC News that David McIntosh, a former congressman and the club's president, also discussed the race with Blake Masters, who failed to unseat Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly last year.

A potential matchup would pit two Trump-aligned Republicans against each other in a primary, and a win by either would make them the heavy favorite in the general election next November.

Crow heads West

Independent presidential candidate and philosopher Cornel West received a maximum campaign donation of $3,300 from Republican megadonor Harlan Crow just weeks before West changed his party affiliation from the Green Party to independent, West's latest campaign finance disclosure revealed.

The move is the latest by Crow to draw eyebrows, after his close ties to Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, which reportedly included lavish trips and stays at various properties, raised concerns over the influence rich donors could have over the court. Thomas has insisted the hospitality was merely between friends.

Thursday, October 19, 2023 at 6:14AM by Tal Axelrod, ABC News Permalink