Former President Trump warned Ron DeSantis over the weekend against launching a presidential primary challenge against him, saying such a move by the popular Florida governor would be “very disloyal.”
It was not the first time Trump, the only major Republican who has declared a 2024 candidacy, has attacked DeSantis, who won re-election by nearly 20 percentage points and who some polls show leading in a theoretical presidential primary. In a series of comments to reporters and wee-hour posts on Truth Social, Trump branded DeSantis a “globalist,” chided him for Florida’s response to the COVID lockdowns, and took credit for his political success.
“Ron would have not been governor if it wasn’t for me,” Trump claimed. “So when I hear he might run, I consider that very disloyal.”
DeSantis, who is believed to be considering a White House run, has not engaged Trump as he rides a wave of popularity that extends well beyond the Sunshine State. A recent poll conducted by the University of New Hampshire has DeSantis leading Trump 42% to 30% among likely Republican voters in the all-important Granite State. No other potential Republican challengers are in double digits.
The attack on DeSantis, who Trump again sought to brand “Ron DeSanctimonious,” for Florida’s COVID response was strained, given that Florida was one of the first states to reopen and DeSantis has been a fierce opponent of vaccine mandates and extended school closings.
“Ron DeSanctimonious” did “FAR WORSE than many other Republican governors, including that he unapologetically shut down Florida,” Trump claimed in one social media post.
Although Florida schools closed for the final semester of 2020 and DeSantis issued an executive order in March of that year closing bars and nightclubs, he lifted the order six months later, making him a target of liberal cable news outlets and Democratic politicians. Florida schools reopened in the fall of 2020, and a CDC study largely vindicated the decision even though DeSantis was heavily criticized at the time.
Trump’s harsh treatment of DeSantis on his handling of COVID was a dramatic departure from what he said at the time. During a press conference on March 31, 2020, Trump called DeSantis a “great governor” who “knows exactly what he’s doing” in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
Trump also hit DeSantis on the subject of COVID vaccines, claiming that DeSantis has “changed his tune a lot.” DeSantis last month sought and won permission from the Florida Supreme Court to impanel a grand jury to investigate possible wrongdoing linked to the vaccines, including spreading false and misleading claims about the efficacy of the doses. The move comes as more questions arise about the safety of the vaccines and business practices of the pharmaceutical companies behind them.
Trump has remained consistent in his view on the vaccines, viewing their development under “Operation Warp Speed” as one of his top achievements as president although he, like DeSantis, has not supported vaccine mandates.
Trump also claimed in a Truth Social post late Sunday that DeSantis and his donors are “globalists,” a label seemingly calibrated to make MAGA voters wary of the Florida governor.
“Ron DeSanctimonious, who I made Governor in BOTH the Primary & the General, is also a Globalist, & so are his donors,” Trump wrote. “Jeb ‘Low Energy’ Bush was next to him last week. Check PAST!”