On the day of the 2022 general election, Donald Trump sent a very clear 2024 message to Ron DeSantis: Stay out of the race or else.
“I would tell you things about him that won’t be very flattering – I know more about him than anybody – other than, perhaps, his wife,” Trump said in an interview with Fox News Digital.
(Trump, a Florida resident, did say Tuesday that he had voted for DeSantis for another term as governor.)
Trump’s rhetoric is the most open threat he has made against DeSantis in recent weeks. At a rally in Pennsylvania over the weekend, Trump referred to DeSantis as “Ron DeSanctimonious.”
That nickname came less than a month after Trump called it a “BIG MISTAKE” when DeSantis endorsed Colorado Republican Senate nominee Joe O’Dea. O’Dea had previously told CNN’s Dana Bash that he would “actively” oppose the former president if he ran for the White House in 2024.
And it comes after Trump has repeatedly insisted that DeSantis would be unwise to run against him. “If I faced him, I’d beat him like I would beat everyone else,” Trump told Yahoo Finance in October of last year of DeSantis. “I think most people would drop out, I think he would drop out.”
That may be a bit of wishful thinking by Trump.
DeSantis appears to be on the verge of a victory Tuesday over former Gov. Charlie Crist, a win that could serve as a springboard for a 2024 bid. As Politico has noted, DeSantis raised $200 million – a staggering sum – for his reelection race and had $90 million left in the bank.
He has also avoided bowing and scraping to Trump as so many other elected Republican officials have done. DeSantis did not even seek Trump’s endorsement in his 2022 campaign.
Trump has routinely said that he effectively created DeSantis by endorsing him in the 2018 Republican gubernatorial primary. He repeated that claim on Tuesday in an interview with NewsNation.
“He was not going to be able to even be a factor in the race, and as soon as I endorsed him, within moments the race was over,” Trump said. “I got him the nomination. He didn’t get it, I got it. Because the minute I made that endorsement, he got it. I thought that he could have been more gracious, but that’s up to him.”
There’s no question that Trump’s endorsement helped DeSantis, who was, at the time, a relatively unknown member of Congress. But since then, DeSantis has emerged as a force all his own. He was openly skeptical of shutdowns triggered by Covid-19. He has positioned himself as perhaps the most vocal opponent in the country of the teaching of critical race theory and other allegedly “woke” policies.
Most polling done on the 2024 GOP primary race shows Trump comfortably ahead. But DeSantis often garners double-digit support – usually the only other Republican contender to do so.