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Donald Trump Looks Pretty Afraid of Ron DeSantis

By Gage Skidmore - Former President of the United States Donald Trump speaking with attendees at the 2022 Student Action Summit at the Tampa Convention Center in Tampa, Florida.

Every indication is that we’re heading for a 2024 Republican presidential primary contest between former President Donald Trump and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.

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Both are conservative Republicans who reside in the state of Florida, and they have been supportive of each other in the past. Trump endorsed DeSantis for governor in 2018, while DeSantis once aired a campaign commercial encouraging his young child to “build the wall” with blocks. 

But relations between the two men appear to have deteriorated, with both wanting to be president. And Trump hit out at DeSantis in an interview this week. 

Donald Trump Takes Credit for DeSantis

In an appearance on Real America’s Voice, Trump declared that he was responsible for DeSantis’ election in 2018 when the Florida politician defeated Democrat Andrew Gillum for the governorship. 

“I got him elected, pure and simple, he would have never. And there was no reason to go wild about endorsing him … So, now I hear he might want to run against me. So, we’ll handle that the way I handle things.”

DeSantis Doesn’t Take the Bait

DeSantis has had little to say about Trump, at least since his successful re-election as governor in November, nor has he officially announced that he is running. He is expected to announce a decision in the spring, after the end of Florida’s legislative session. 

Similarly, The Daily Beast reported last week the “feud” between DeSantis and another potential 2024 candidate, South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem, has been “one-sided,” with Noem’s press secretary recently ripping DeSantis for passing a 15-week abortion ban, which is not as restrictive as some of the abortion bans passed in other red states. DeSantis has said little in response to the attack from Noem’s side. This followed a National Review story that ripped Noem for not being sufficiently opposed to trans rights. 

The Daily Beast story quoted three Republican sources who said that Noem had Trump’s “blessing” to go after DeSantis. 

Indeed, DeSantis has been giving few interviews since winning re-election last year. 

A Politico feature Tuesday looked at DeSantis’ political chances in 2024, specifically noting that the governor is “hot on Fox but cold on the stump and in the VIP line.” 

Following an opening anecdote about a recent fundraiser, in which DeSantis brought in food from a top Florida eatery, Politico noted that DeSantis went table to table to greet donors, which is not something he typically has done. In fact, he left some recent events without taking time to greet donors and party faithfuls. 

“The early rap on DeSantis from his fellow Republicans is that, for all his smarts and shrewdness, he lacks charm, and is either unwilling or unable to submit to the longstanding rituals of retail politics.” 

DeSantis Sets Up for Action

But DeSantis appears aware of that potential vulnerability, according to Politico. 

“The governor’s glad-handing illustrates that he’s absorbed the critique about his aloofness and is making an effort at rebutting it. The delighted response about an unremarkable show of gratitude demonstrates how little of it he’s done to date, and the relish with which his glancing interactions were recalled indicates how low the expectations bar is for DeSantis and what it means to an important constituency when he clears said bar.” 

“Ron is a little reserved and dry compared to George W. Bush and Bill Clinton,” Francis Rooney,  a Florida-based fundraiser and former Congressman and Ambassador to the Holy See, told Politico. “He is what he is. So what he needs to do is organize his campaign to minimize that characteristic.”

There are other issues with a potential DeSantis candidacy. He has gone all in on opposing “wokeness,” something that has played very well in Florida, but less well nationwide, especially in swing states. The “Don’t Say Gay” bill and book bans are likely going to be hung on DeSantis’ neck once he becomes a national candidate.

And there’s no telling whether DeSantis will be able to come up with answers to Trump’s insults on the debate stage, the way none of his 2016 opponents could. 

Stephen Silver is a Senior Editor for 19FortyFive. He is an award-winning journalist, essayist and film critic, who is also a contributor to the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Broad Street Review and Splice Today. The co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle, Stephen lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and two sons. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenSilver.

Written By

Stephen Silver is a journalist, essayist, and film critic, who is also a contributor to Philly Voice, Philadelphia Weekly, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Living Life Fearless, Backstage magazine, Broad Street Review, and Splice Today. The co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle, Stephen lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and two sons. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenSilver.