With rival rallies in Florida on Sunday, Trump and DeSantis herald a potential GOP presidential showdown
In an overview of the potential Republican presidential primary showdown, Donald Trump and Ron DeSantis will hold duels in Florida on Sunday as the two men battle for supremacy over the Sunshine State and the heart of the GOP.
The former president will welcome supporters in Miami, the third stop on a four-city tour that has effectively made Trump a leading player in his party’s battle for control of Congress. Meanwhile, the Florida governor will hold his own events in three counties on the opposite coast of the state — Hillsborough, Sarasota and Lee — staying away from Trump as he looks to close out his bid for a second term.
For the past two years, Trump and DeSantis have coexisted on opposite ends of Florida — Trump plotting his next move from his Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach and DeSantis making a name for himself from the state capital in Tallahassee. But as these midterms draw to a close and with a decision looming over their political futures, even on a 450-mile peninsula, it’s become increasingly difficult for the two to avoid each other.
“We have two very hard-nosed Type A politicians in Florida who are spearheading the GOP,” said one Republican official who asked not to be named. “They both attract attention, but they both have their own political operations and that’s what you see. It’s already exhausting to talk about.”
Long simmer rivalry has poured into the public during the last weeks leading up to Election Day. At a rally in Pennsylvania on Saturday, Trump took a direct swipe at DeSantis and christened the governor with a new moniker as he declared himself the front-runner in a hypothetical GOP primary.
“There it is, Trump at 71 (percent), Ron DeSanctimonious at 10 percent,” Trump told the crowd as he read alleged poll numbers from the screen.
DeSantis recently endorsed Republican businessman and Colorado Senate candidate Joe O’Dea, after O’Dea pledged in October to “actively campaign” against Trump.
“BIG MISTAKE!” Trump wrote a response on his platform Truth Social.
Trump then shared a video of former Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly predicting that GOP voters would remain firmly in the Trump camp if DeSantis decides to challenge the former president in the Republican presidential primary. CNN reported on Friday that Trump could launch his next presidential bid already this month.
But the planning of competing events in Florida two days before the important election day is particularly illustrative of how strained the relationship between the former allies has become. Unlike other potential 2024 candidates, DeSantis has not ruled out running against Trump in the primary, much to Trump’s ire. DeSantis, meanwhile, believes such a concession would undermine his efforts to keep the focus on his current re-election race instead of what may lie ahead, CNN previously reported. DeSantis and his campaign have declined to publicly discuss his post-midterm plans, but in a recent debatehe did not respond to a question about whether he intends to serve a four-year term if re-elected.
If they do face each other in the primaries, the two candidates could find themselves on similar financial footing. DeSantis has raised $200 million this campaign is going through his two political committees and he has spent a little more than half, leaving about $90 million in potential seed money for the Super PAC. At the end of October, Trump was sitting on about $117 million between his three active fundraising vehicles, according to federal election records.
The Trumps campaign trip is motivated at least in part by a desire to launch a third campaign for the White House, CNN reported this week. Indeed, during a visit to Iowa on Thursday, Trump told voters in the state’s first-in-the-nation caucus to “get ready” for his return as the presidential nominee. On Saturday, Trump stopped in Pennsylvania – home to a close Senate race between his representative, Republican Mehmet Oz and Democrat John Fetterman – and will spend the eve of the election in Ohio, where the former president has endorsed Republican JD Vance in the Senate race against Democrat Tim Ryan. .
But planning a rally in Florida was also considered a hit across the bow at DeSantis. Trump first announced his intention to hold a rally for US Sen. Marco Rubio in South Florida last week, leaving DeSantis noticeably out of his plans. Since then, the list of guest speakers has grown to include the state’s junior senator, Rick Scott, as well as a dozen other elected officials and candidates from around the state.
The decision to hold the rally in Miami-Dade County comes as Republicans are optimistic they will carry the former Democratic stronghold for the first time in two decades. Republican investments to break into Hispanic communities in the area paid off in recent elections, and the party is riding a wave of enthusiasm that is turning the state a deeper shade of red. Republicans will have a voter registration advantage on Election Day for the first time in Florida’s modern political history.
Before his arrival, Trump was already taking credit for that turnaround.
“President Trump delivered a historic red wave in Florida in the 2018 midterms with his slate of endorsed candidates on and off the ballot and shaped the Sunshine State into the MAGA stronghold it is today,” Trump’s Save America PAC said in an announcement. “Thanks to President Trump, Florida is no longer a purple state; it is America’s first red state.”
While DeSantis has embarked on his own out-of-state campaign for Republican candidates, including a recent rally in New York for GOP gubernatorial candidate Lee Zeldin, he is spending the final days of the race against Democrat Charlie Crist at bars across Florida. His campaign had 13 events scheduled between Friday and Monday. On the final day, DeSantis has stops planned in Trump’s adopted county of Palm Beach and in Miami-Dade not far from Trump’s Sunday event.
On the campaign trail, DeSantis did not talk about Trump, but his remarks were peppered with frequent mentions of President Joe Biden in an overview of what a presidential campaign against the incumbent Democrat might look like.
At an event Thursday in central Florida, DeSantis called Biden “King Midas in reverse.”
“Biden touches it and it turns into something much worse than (gold),” DeSantis said. “It’s frustrating and a lot of people, the vast majority of Americans, think the country has seen its best days. They think we are clearly on the wrong track. But you know, I think Florida provides a blueprint that other states can follow.”
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