(Molly Bruns, Headline USA) Sources familiar with the operations of former President Donald Trump believe that he will be stepping up the competition with Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, who appears to be preparing to enter the 2024 presidential race.
Some speculate that Trump is hoping to either intimidate DeSantis so much that he does not enter the race, or damage his reputation to the extent to make it impossible for him to win, Axios reported.
Trump already started the process by dubbing the governor “Ron DeSanctimonious,” shortly followed by “Meatball Ron.”
Trump also plans to target DeSantis’s past support for Social Security and Medicare, which the now-governor wanted to raise the eligibility age for when he served as a U.S. Congressman.
The former president also hopes to paint DeSantis as a compatriot of former House Speaker Paul Ryan. Trump continually attacks Ryan via Truth Social, most recently saying he “couldn’t get elected dogcatcher in the Republican Party.”
“Paul Ryan is a loser, Mitt Romney could have won without him,” Trump said in the post. “I won twice, did much better the second time, and was 233 Wins out of 253 Races in the Midterms. Paul Ryan is destroying Fox, and couldn’t get elected dogcatcher in the Republican Party!”
Florida’s COVID response is another target of Trump’s ire, as DeSantis’s initial response to the viral infection was very strict.
In the early days of the pandemic, DeSantis ordered shutdowns of most businesses and beaches in Palm Beach, which were more strict than anywhere else in the state. The governor pushed back on these claims, arguing that there was little information at the time and he exercised caution for the good of his state.
DeSantis’s team also projects lack of assuredness on the funding of the conflict in Ukraine. The governor gave several halfhearted answers to questions concerning military and financial support in a Fox News interview, but did not support the Biden administration’s blank-check strategy.
Trump also hopes to use DeSantis’ disloyalty against him, after the former president’s endorsement helped him win the governorship in 2018.
“There’s a pre-Trump Ron and there’s a post-Trump Ron,” a Trump confidant said of DeSantis. “He used to be a Reagan Republican. That’s where he comes from. He’s now awkwardly trying to square his views up with the populist nationalist feeling of that party.”
DeSantis’s team has ignored the criticisms thus far, dubbing them as “background noise,” but there is some debate about whether not responding will make DeSantis seem weak and ineffectual.