Donald Trump had harsh words for Florida GOP Governor Ron DeSantis over the weekend in response to talk of the far-right chief executive potentially running for president, which would put him directly at odds with Trump.
Trump, of course, has already confirmed his long-expected campaign for the Republican nomination for president in 2024, although some polling at both the national level and in swing states has shown DeSantis potentially toppling Trump. A South Carolina state legislator recently told The Washington Post he was hearing grassroots support for DeSantis among his constituents, and DeSantis can also point to his electoral successes, winning re-election last year by nearly 20 percent and likely helping Florida Republicans sail to super-majorities in both chambers of the state legislature. Trump complained about the possibility of DeSantis running for president in light of the former president’s own role in boosting DeSantis’s 2018 campaign for the top spot in Florida.
“Ron would have not been governor if it wasn’t for me,” Trump said. “So when I hear he might run, I consider that very disloyal.” It’s not clear DeSantis cares, although he hasn’t announced a campaign for president. Others, like former administration official Nikki Haley, might do so first. Trump said he just recently spoke with Haley, who said she was considering running for president. He offered a more conciliatory tone towards those prospects, perhaps conscious of the difference that Haley isn’t the one beating him or coming close in polls around the U.S. (That’s DeSantis.) As for the governor, Trump also sought to characterize his infamous response to COVID-19 as actually restrictive, which would undercut one of his most high-profile points of appeal for far-right voters.
“There are Republican governors that did not close their states,” Trump said. “Florida was closed for a long period of time… They’re trying to rewrite history.” Trump was campaigning this weekend in some of his first stops since announcing his own bid. He visited both New Hampshire and South Carolina, where he brought back up familiar grievances like his complaints about the federal investigation into his handling of classified documents and his insistence there was election fraud in 2020. Is that supposed to win over voters who have real-world issues about which to concern themselves?