The cold war between Donald Trump and Ron DeSantis heated up Sunday with new reporting on the tensions between the 2024 frontrunners.
Florida’s two most powerful men, former president Donald Trump and Governor Ron DeSantis, are on a slow-motion collision course ahead of the 2024 GOP presidential primary.
- Trump and DeSantis have taken not-so-subtle swipes at each other in the press. DeSantis’s refusal to rule out a presidential run in 2024 has angered Trump to the point that Trumpworld is leaking his comments to the press.
- Last week, Trump slammed Republican politicians (read: DeSantis) who refuse to disclose if they’ve gotten a booster as “gutless.” In private, Trump has attacked DeSantis as “dull,” an “ingrate” and derides DeSantis’s odds of taking the crown from Trump in 2024.
- Rank-and-file Republicans’ exhaustion with Trump’s petty intra-party feuds and backwards-looking obsession with supposed 2020 election fraud has grown louder in recent weeks.
- DeSantis, meanwhile, has been a fierce and consistent critic of Biden, Fauci and vaccine mandates. Trump has defended the vaccines developed under his administration through Operation Warp Speed in multiple public appearances.
- Trump currently leads 2024 GOP presidential primary polling, with DeSantis in a distant but consistent second place. DeSantis leads every poll taken without Trump as an option.
- The New York Times asks in its in-depth reporting on the Trump-DeSantis feud: “who is the King of Florida?”
- CNN traced the history of DeSantis’s criticisms of Trump administration policies, including that the travel restrictions imposed on China in January 2020 “just didn’t work.”
- Jonathan Chait of New York wrote the first “Ron DeSantis makes Donald Trump look honest and sane” article of the 2024 primary. “Current GOPer makes previously hated GOPer look sane” is a perennial left-wing media trope. Chait previously wrote “Why Liberals Should Support a Trump Nomination” in 2016 before spending the succeeding 6 years calling Trump an authoritarian coup-plotter.
- Ron DeSantis swiped at Trump on the Ruthless Podcast, saying his only regret was not standing against Fauci and national lockdowns sooner. Of course, it was Trump who put Fauci front-and-center, pushed lockdown policies and criticized states for reopening “too soon.”
- Hot Air’s Allahpundit analyzed “the inevitable Trump/DeSantis war” and its “surprising” first skirmish.
- National Review’s Michael Brendan Dougherty observes that when it comes to the Trump-DeSantis matchup, DeSantis is the “de facto national leader on [ending Covid restrictions] while Trump is sending out incomprehensible press releases about evidence of fraud.”
A slew of potential 2024 candidates, from Nikki Haley to Marco Rubio to Rick Scott have said they won’t run if Trump does. DeSantis, former vice president Mike Pence, Trump’s Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, ex-New Jersey governor Chris Christie, and senators Ted Cruz and Tom Cotton have declined to make similar statements.
“Trump attacks DeSantis on vaccines” and “DeSantis implies Trump was Fauci’s lockdown pawn” weren’t on my 2024 bingo card. Trump was the most famous person to run for president since Dwight D. Eisenhower, and would be the first president to mount a comeback bid since Theodore Roosevelt in 1912. The challenge facing Trump’s potential rivals is stark: Trump starts off with universal name-ID, a grievance narrative about supposed fraud, is still popular with GOP voters and has an immense campaign war chest.
Clearly, DeSantis has decided to draw lines in the sand between him and Trump early. DeSantis realizes what Ted Cruz never did: you can’t beat Trump by sucking up to him and hoping he implodes. On Twitter, Republican strategist Liam Donovan summed up potential Trump rivals’ challenge by quoting wrestling legend Ric Flair: “to be the man you gotta beat the man.”
© Dominic Moore, 2022