(Trends Wide) — In a matter of months, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis went from being a shining example in Donald Trump’s eyes of a “MAGA” leader molded in his image to being an average politician who forgot his roots as he rose to Republican stardom.
People close to both men first noticed the palpable shift in Trump’s stance toward DeSantis earlier this year, as enthusiasm for the Florida governor surged among donors and GOP operators who praised his hands-off response. from the government to the covid-19 pandemic. The more DeSantis’s popularity grew, the more Trump became obsessed with taking credit for his political celebrity.
In April, Trump had told Fox News that DeSantis would be “certainly” under consideration for the vice president’s job if he ran for a third presidential campaign in 2024. In October, the former president demanded that he publicly rule out his own candidacy for the White House. .
“It’s not that Trump is complaining about Ron … but he likes to remind Ron and others that he did,” said a person close to the former president, adding that Trump has been telling people around him that DeSantis could show more gratitude. Politico first reported the tension in their relationship last Friday.
Trump’s spokesman, Taylor Budowich, appeared to confirm Trump’s obsession with receiving credit for DeSantis’s success in a statement to Trends Wide. Budowich said the former president’s 2020 victory in Florida “paved the way for Republicans, including Gov. Ron DeSantis, to raze the state in 2022” and suggested that Trump “catapulted” then-Congressman DeSantis “into the governor’s mansion. “with his endorsement in the 2018 Republican Party primaries for Florida governor.
“President Trump remains committed and supportive of Governor Ron DeSantis, who has been a champion of President Trump’s ‘America First’ agenda,” said Budowich.
Although the two remain in regular contact, Trump has grown increasingly irritated by DeSantis’s refusal to publicly rule out a 2024 candidacy if the former president decides to run. Two people close to the situation said DeSantis has privately assured Trump and others that he has no intention of challenging him in a GOP presidential primary, but noted that Trump will not be fully satisfied until the governor says so publicly.
“I don’t think Trump appreciates the dilemma DeSantis is in. He wants me to say, ‘I’m not running,’ but DeSantis is not going to take that,” said a former Trump adviser, who suggested DeSantis’s current approach was politically. Smart given his interest in securing another term as governor.
“It’s a very smart vision. Until you’re re-elected, don’t start having a conversation about 2024. If you’re trying to ask people for their vote and you lean toward presidential speculation, it makes it that much more difficult,” the adviser said. .
Although DeSantis has previously dismissed talks about the 2024 bid as “nonsense,” he has not said publicly that he will not challenge Trump as other potential Republican hopefuls have done.
Earlier this month, DeSantis officially ran for re-election as governor of Florida in 2022 and recently told Fox News host Sean Hannity that’s his focus.
“I’m not considering anything beyond doing my job,” DeSantis said.
A spokesman for DeSantis did not respond to a request for comment. Helen Aguirre Ferré, the executive director of the Florida Republican Party who has worked for Trump and DeSantis, told Trends Wide: “I’m not going to go into that at all. I’ll leave it for someone else.”
What sets DeSantis apart
Trump’s allies say it’s organic enthusiasm for DeSantis, among deep-pocketed donors and the Republican Party’s community base, that has fueled Trump’s frustration toward the governor, especially as it relates to 2024. When the name Trump was eliminated from a preliminary presidential poll at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) summit in February, it was DeSantis who led the group with 43% support among MAGA-like audience. Months later, at a press conference on Sept. 13 denouncing the Biden administration’s mandate on the COVID-19 vaccine for large companies, DeSantis offered a sheepish smile when another state official pointed out someone that he wore a “DeSantis 2024” t-shirt in the crowd.
And for months, the billionaire Republican donors who financed Trump have opened their checkbooks to boost DeSantis in his bid for a second term as Florida governor.
Former Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross donated $ 50,000 to the DeSantis campaign in April, according to publicly available campaign financial data, as did close friend of Trump and Home Depot co-founder Bernie Marcus who contributed $ 250,000. in March. Interactive Brokers Group Chairman Thomas Peterffy, whose last six-figure donation to the Trump Victory fund came in September 2017, also donated $ 250,000 to DeSantis in April. Peterffy told Bloomberg News earlier this fall that he would rather see DeSantis as a Republican presidential nominee in 2024 because he is less impulsive than Trump.
Nick Iarossi, a Florida lobbyist and DeSantis fundraiser, claimed that Trump supporters are the ones who come to support DeSantis, and not the other way around. Another person close to DeSantis, who requested anonymity to discuss private conversations, said he had personally witnessed cases where the governor had to tell donors “that they are all excited about a presidential candidacy, ‘No, I’m not focused on 2024 ‘”.
“Everybody’s talking about my governor,” said Shawn Foster, a member of the GOP state committee who helped organize a county fundraiser spearheaded by DeSantis in September that political operators believe was the largest in the state history, plus one organized by Trump.
DeSantis has raised $ 56 million so far this year through a political committee, and in a sign of its growing national importance, nearly half of its 2021 collection came from outside of Florida. His committee has spent little, just $ 2.3 million in the last 12 months, though it has paid to address demand for the swanky DeSantis-themed merchandise for sale on its website. DeSantis sold the famous “koozies”, sleeves to keep drinks cold, with the legend “Don’t Fauci my Florida” this summer, when the Sunshine State became the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak in the country.
Now on sale: DeSantis-branded golf balls with the slogan “The Governor of Florida has a pair.”
Trump watches his potential competitors
The tension between Trump and DeSantis comes as the former president himself is approaching another campaign for the White House in 2024. Trump has been closely following what rumored Republican presidential hopefuls have said about his own interest in running, and he is most interested in those – like DeSantis – who enjoy significant popularity among his main supporters.
With his sights set on 2024, Trump has been working aggressively since leaving office to exert his control over the Republican Party with endorsements for rogue Republican Party candidates, regular appearances in election campaigns, and intense demands for loyalty from Republicans to local, state and federal level. A former Trump White House official said Trump’s approach to ensuring he remains in command of the party spares no one, not even elected Republicans who have shown the utmost loyalty to him in most situations.
“He wants to be the boss, not just nationally, but in these states” that will matter if he becomes the Republican nominee in 2024, the former White House official said.
The official noted that DeSantis is not the only Republican governor who has been on the receiving end of the former president’s praise one day and resentful the next.
“He was at the border with (Texas Governor) Greg Abbott three or four months ago and then a month later, you get that statement where he was critical of Abbott,” the official recalled, referring to a letter Trump wrote. to the governor of Texas in September demanding he support a forensic audit of the state’s election results in 2020. (Trump joined Abbott on a tour of the U.S.-Mexico border in late June, amid a surge in unauthorized border crossings under Biden’s administration).
“He changes tune every other day with some of these guys and what you see with DeSantis, Trump being hot and cold, is not necessarily exclusive to him,” said the former Trump White House official.
If asked, Trump aides believe the former president would campaign for DeSantis’ re-election. Iarossi said he wasn’t sure what Trump’s turnout will be in 2022, but added: “Trump’s brand is still big in Florida, so I think he’s a great ally to have.”
Some Trump enemies have caught the former president’s jealousy and are using it to advance their own goals. Next week, Palm Beach televisions, perhaps including those in Mar-a-Lago, will re-air a Lincoln Project ad designed to remind Trump that DeSantis is the new face of the Republican Party.
Rick Wilson, one of the ex-Republicans behind the Lincoln Project hopes to elicit a very specific reaction from Trump.
“We want Trump to kill his own babies,” Wilson said. “We think if we narrow the field and it’s just Trump in 2024, it’s an easy option for Americans to say ‘no.’
DeSantis, who once aired a campaign ad reading Trump’s book “Art of the Deal” to his young son, has deftly handled Trump for his own political gain for years. As a candidate for the U.S. Senate in 2016, DeSantis repeatedly refused to endorse Trump in the GOP presidential primaries. But after Trump won and his popularity skyrocketed among Republican voters, DeSantis appeared regularly on Fox News, where he was a staunch supporter of the president. Trump took note and tweeted his support for DeSantis in the 2018 gubernatorial primary against a better-funded establishment favorite.
Trump has often reminded DeSantis of that story, stating at a 2020 rally that DeSantis was 3% in the polls and “had no money” before Trump got involved. “He ran, I backed him, his numbers skyrocketed,” Trump told the crowd.
But if Trump is waiting for DeSantis to return the favor by publicly yielding the 2024 candidacy, he shouldn’t hold his breath. With a reelection campaign still ahead, and Democrats already accusing DeSantis of campaigning for his next office, the governor’s allies say it makes no political sense for him to talk about the future.
“He has not said that he will run in 2024,” Iarossi said. “Why would you discard something that you have not expressed interest in?”