Trump is going to war against DeSantis
Trump and DeSantis are on a collision course in 2024 as the Florida governor’s national stock soared, a rally that was halted Tuesday night after DeSantis won re-election in Florida by nearly 20 points and Trump-backed candidates nationwide were heavily worse.
DeSantis won Florida by a historic margin in what used to be the nation’s biggest swing state. Conservative media institutions like Fox News appeared to side with DeSantis, as did the New York Post, a Rupert Murdoch-owned tabloid that ran a front-page story the day after the election calling DeSantis “DeFuture.”
“NewsCorp, which is Fox, the Wall Street Journal and no longer the big New York Post, is everything to Governor Ron DeSanctimonious,” Trump said.
Trump also criticized DeSantis’ response to the pandemic, one of the governor’s top achievements among conservatives that boosted his national profile.
DeSantis is “an average REPUBLICAN governor with excellent public relations, who didn’t have to shut down his state, but did, unlike other Republican governors,” Trump wrote.
Trump has taken more subtle shots at DeSantis in recent weeks, including a new nickname. But Thursday night’s statement is a clear escalation of tensions between Trump and a governor who is increasingly posing a threat to the former president’s White House ambitions.
DeSantis, whose campaign did not respond to a request for comment, has so far not publicly responded to Trump’s rebuke.
“I think it’s very clear that Ron is living rent-free in the former president’s head,” said Stephen Lawson, a Georgia strategist who served as communications director for DeSantis’ successful 2018 gubernatorial bid. “Ron hasn’t said a word and they’re smart to think that Tuesday’s huge win allows him to just keep talking about his record without having to acknowledge Trump.”
“It’s 1,000 percent the right move,” Lawson said of DeSantis. “Trump just keeps throwing boomerangs.”
Trump’s staunchest supporters, however, are cheering the escalation, saying DeSantis deserves Trump’s wrath because the governor has not publicly announced his 2024 intentions.
“Unfortunately, everything President Trump says is true. Ron DeSantis owes his governorship to Donald Trump and challenging him in 2024 would be a treasonous act of disloyalty,” said Roger Stone, a longtime Trump adviser.
Trump’s endorsement played a big role in DeSantis winning the 2018 GOP primary against former Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, who was the early favorite. In his statement, the former president said he supported DeSantis because he “didn’t know” Putnam. On Thursday night, former Putnam advisers were taken aback by the unprepared thrust into the statement, but one said that “even at his worst, Adam was not happy, but he never said anything bad about Trump.”
There are mixed responses to Trump’s escalation, according to dozens of people in Trump’s and DeSantis’ orbits. But even those who support the former president say the public criticism of the popular governor coming off the back of a historic victory seemed wrong.
“It’s obviously escalating. It’s full-on gunshots,” said a Trump adviser who spoke on condition of anonymity. “It’s not what I would do if it were completely up to me, but you can’t argue with Donald Trump’s tactics. They are working. He is a savage, but efficient. He will never hold back for long.”
Trump’s advantage comes after a number of his handpicked nominees had disappointing midterm results, possibly dashing Republican hopes of retaking the Senate and giving the GOP, if they win the House, a far smaller majority than many expected. A key race in Georgia between a Democratic senator. Raphael Warnock and Republican challenger Herschel Walker, who is backed by Trump, is headed to a runoff as Trump draws attention with his feud with DeSantis.
In addition to DeSantis’ landslide victory, Florida Republicans won supermajorities in both the House and Senate, giving Gov. an almost untested force to build and enact a policy platform that will raise his national profile ahead of the expected 2024 announcement in the late spring or summer of 2023.
For Republicans in Florida, Trump’s statement speaks to one thing: desperation.
“He’s obviously threatened by DeSantis’ presidential bid,” said a longtime Florida Republican consultant who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the former president and DeSantis openly. “And by doing this, I think he’s going to lose a lot of his core support.”
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