By Jack Phillips
Former President Donald Trump over the weekend responded to speculation that Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis could be a potential 2024 running mate amid an escalating war of words between the two.
During a Newsmax interview on Saturday, the 45th president was asked about whether he considered the Republican governor to be his vice president.
“No, I never thought of it,” Trump said in response. “We have a lot of great people in the Republican Party … it would be a very unlikely alliance.”
“Look, I appointed him. He was failing badly in the polls … and I endorsed him,” Trump said as he reiterated his comment that his backing of DeSantis enabled him to become Florida’s governor in 2018. “He went from a very small number to a very high number,” he added.
Trump suggested that he boosted DeSantis’s primary bid with his endorsement and later, helped him defeat Democrat Andrew Gillum during the 2018 midterms. DeSantis defeated Gillum by a narrow margin.
But in November 2022, DeSantis easily won reelection by about 19 points over former Gov. Charlie Crist, a Democrat. In the meantime, DeSantis has raised his national profile among Republicans after ending COVID-19-related mandates and lockdowns earlier than some other governors.
“If you look at his record, he can’t win,” Trump said, referring to DeSantis’s voting while he was a U.S. House representative. “Ron was a disciple of Paul Ryan, and Paul Ryan was a loser in many ways,” Trump said, referring to the former GOP vice presidential candidate and House speaker.
Trump said that “I don’t like saying this about another Republican,” but he “[has] to get the word out” about DeSantis. “Everyone thought he did great on COVID … but if you look at the list,” Trump said, “he did poorly on COVID.”
Since the November midterms, Trump has increasingly ramped up his attacks on DeSantis, sometimes referring to the governor as “Ron DeSanctimonious.” Early on Monday, the former president came up with another nickname—calling DeSantis “Ron Dukakis,” in reference Michael Dukakis, the former Democrat Massachusetts governor who ran for president in 1988 before he was crushed by Republican George H.W. Bush by more than 300 electoral votes.
DeSantis has not officially entered the 2024 race, but both he and Trump have emerged as Republican favorites. Outside of Trump, the other two major Republicans to have declared their candidacies are former U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley and businessman Vivek Ramaswamy.
Meanwhile, a hypothetical poll shows that DeSantis is leading Trump in Iowa and is tied with the former president in New Hampshire, two key primary states. One poll provided to left-wing news outlet Axios found that 45 percent of Iowa respondents would vote for the Florida governor while 37 percent would vote for Trump. Both received 39 percent in New Hampshire.
DeSantis was also asked by a Newsmax anchor last week whether he would join a Trump 2024 presidential ticket. The governor demurred.
“I think I am probably more of an executive guy. I think that you want to be able to do things,” DeSantis said. “That’s part of the reason I got into this job, is because we have action. We’re able to make things happen, and I think that’s probably what I’m best suited for.”
It came as the governor made what appeared to be the first critical comment of Trump after he was asked about the former president being indicted by a Manhattan grand jury in response to an alleged hush money payment made to Stormy Daniels, an adult film actress, in 2016.
“I don’t know what goes into paying hush money to a porn star to secure silence over some type of alleged affair,” DeSantis told reporters. “I just, I can’t speak to that.”When asked about blocking Trump’s extradition, he said, “I have no interest in getting involved in some type of manufactured circus by some Soros DA,” making a reference to billionaire donor George Soros’s having given campaign cash to Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, who is investigating Trump.
Trump earlier this month announced he would be arrested last Tuesday. Both his lawyer and a spokesperson said that he was reacting to anonymously sourced news reports about his looming indictment.