As RedState previously reported, 2024 GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump hit the campaign trail over the weekend, stopping in the early primary states of New Hampshire and South Carolina and making his case to voters for another term in the Oval Office.
During a back and forth with reporters in the midst of his stop in South Carolina, Trump again took the time to criticize Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who is rumored to be exploring a run for president himself though he has made it a point to publicly brush off any questions about the possibility.
To quickly recap, Trump hit out at what he says was DeSantis’ response to the COVID pandemic as well as his alleged “disloyalty” over the possibility that he might also run for president after accepting Trump’s support in previous elections:
On Saturday, Trump took his sharpest swings at DeSantis to date, accusing the governor of “trying to rewrite history” over his response to the Covid-19 pandemic. Trump said DeSantis, who has been openly skeptical about government efforts to vaccinate people against the virus, “promoted the vaccine as much as anyone.” He praised governors who did not close down their states, noting that DeSantis ordered the closure of beaches and business in some parts of the state.
“When I hear that he might [run] I think it’s very disloyal,” Trump said.
During a press conference Tuesday where he was set to promote changes in higher ed institutions that would stem the spread of wokeness in the classroom, DeSantis was asked about Trump’s comments.
Instead of engaging in a war of words, DeSantis said in so many words and without mentioning Trump’s name that the people of Florida “rendered” their verdict on him in November by reelecting him in record numbers, and that those results spoke for themselves:
“I roll out of bed, I have people attacking me from all angles,” he said. “It’s been happening for many, many years.”
“When you’re an elected executive, you have to make all kinds of decisions, you got to steer that ship. And the good thing is, is that the people are able to render a judgment on that – whether they reelect you or not,” DeSantis said.
“And I’m happy to say, you know, in my case, not only did we win reelection, we won with the highest percentage of the vote that any Republican governor candidate has in the history of the state of Florida,” he added. “We won by the largest raw vote margin – over 1.5 million votes – than any governor candidate has ever had in Florida history.”
DeSantis responds to Trump's criticism of his COVID response:
"I roll out of bed, I have people attacking me from all angles. It's been happening for many many years…The people are able to render a judgement on that, whether they reelect you, or not." pic.twitter.com/7gbsbqpwoE
— Townhall.com (@townhallcom) January 31, 2023
“What matters is, are you leading? Are you getting in front of issues? Are you delivering results for people? And are you standing up for folks? And if you do that, then none of that stuff matters,” DeSantis stated at the time. “And that’s what we’ve done. We focused on results and leadership, and at the end of the day, I would just tell people to go check out the scoreboard from last Tuesday night.”
I think at this stage in the game and considering DeSantis hasn’t declared his intentions one way or the other, this is the right way to respond to Trump’s claims. While Trump at this point is a former elected official, DeSantis is still in a position of leadership as his state’s governor, and he’s got to walk that fine line between giving off the appearance of campaigning and demonstrating that he is above it all as he helps guide his state through any incoming challenges.
But once/if DeSantis does decide to announce he’s in the game for 2024, all bets are off and it will be open season, where that fine line will be a little more blurred and you’ll see a lot more pushback against Trump’s attacks from both DeSantis and his campaign where they deem it appropriate, because that’s what happens during primaries as the candidates jockey for position.
That being said, if Trump and DeSantis do end up going head to head and one of them is the eventual winner of the GOP nomination, one has to wonder whether the bruising primary season will carry over in a negative way into the general election campaign season – or if the experience will make that candidate all the more stronger against Joe Biden, or whoever the Democratic nominee will be.
As always, stay tuned – and buckle up for the bumpy ride ahead.