Numerous Republicans rallied to Donald Trump’s support as the prospect of being charged with a crime loomed in New York last month. But not Ron DeSantis, who, according to two individuals familiar with the Florida governor’s thinking who spoke on the condition of anonymity to talk openly, disliked that Trump expected devotion while continuously assaulting him and wanted to prove he wouldn’t be cowed into falling in line.
In response to a question regarding the matter at a press conference on March 20, two days after a Trump adviser slammed his “radio silence,” DeSantis, like many other party members, accused the prosecutor of “pursuing a political agenda” against Trump. He also brought up the “porn star hush money” allegations, though, one of the sources said, in an effort to draw attention to Trump’s behavior and demonstrate that he was “not going to be bullied” by the former president.
Another person with knowledge of the conversations, who like others spoke on the condition of privacy to more openly describe private talks, said that DeSantis took the direction suggested early on by Dustin Carmack, a former congressional aide anticipated to join his presidential campaign, when an indictment came in late March after a swift backlash from Trump and his allies. Despite the fact that Trump’s staff had previously said they expected the former president to surrender, DeSantis announced that Florida would “not assist in an extradition request.”
An inquiry for comment was not answered by DeSantis’ aides. For comment, Carmack could not be reached.
The incident brought to light the significant difficulties DeSantis will face in dealing with Trump as the governor prepares Florida’s to run for president. The governor’s recent failures to establish himself on the national stage, where he is a relative newcomer, contrast with the supremacy he has built in Florida, where he confidently took on the political left and other opponents and triumphed by nearly 20 points in the fall election.
His response to Trump’s indictment is indicative of his methodical approach and his unwillingness to openly declare war on the leading Republican contender. DeSantis is once more keeping a low profile, at least for the time being, rather than entering a new adversarial phase with Trump.
The individual who claimed DeSantis wouldn’t be “bullied” anticipates the governor to rebuff Trump more vehemently if he runs for president. However, this person also anticipates that he will take “the high road” and engage with Trump on policy rather than engage in name-calling and insult-trading. He might do this by responding to the former president’s criticisms of how DeSantis handled the pandemic and by criticizing Trump’s own record on the matter, such as his use of Anthony S. Fauci as a White House coronavirus adviser.
Republicans noted that although expecting Trump simply implodes has its risks, going after him head-on also carries significant risks, particularly for a 2024 candidate like DeSantis who shares some of Trump’s fans.
According to Alex Conant, who worked on Sen. Marco Rubio’s 2016 presidential campaign, “This is the time when you’d expect candidates to try out different things.” DeSantis just “tried something out,” the speaker continued, by characterizing Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as a “territorial dispute” that had no bearing on American interests. DeSantis took a stronger tone against Russia and claimed that his statements had been “mischaracterized” after receiving harsh GOP criticism.
Conant claimed that GOP voters “really dislike it when other Republicans attack Trump,” and that only President Biden, a Democrat, had successfully defended himself.
According to a person who has spoken to DeSantis personally, in private, DeSantis has pushed back to allies on Trump’s claim that he “made” DeSantis and has characterized some of Trump’s actions as unstable. According to some people with knowledge of the case, the governor was surprised by how quickly Trump attacked him; while he and his team anticipated that the criticism would eventually come, it did so sooner than they anticipated.
The governor’s advisers and associates have also expressed their own annoyance with Trump. A DeSantis supporter claimed, “Mention Trump and people’s eyes roll back into their heads.”
Prior to his “hush money” remarks at the news conference last month and his sharper contrasts with Trump in an interview with conservative commentator Piers Morgan around the same time, DeSantis had long avoided publicly responding to Trump’s criticism. On Tuesday, the governor showed up with pups at a closed-press pet adoption ceremony while the former president was being charged in New York.
Trump, though, is already being criticized by a super PAC set up to back DeSantis’ campaign, who claims he would be a weaker candidate in the general election. There are still open criminal investigations concerning the former president’s efforts to rig the 2020 presidential election and his handling of sensitive material after he resigned. Additionally, Trump has been blamed for some of the setbacks in important midterm races when he backed the GOP candidate.
According to a man in a video recently released by Never Back Down, the political committee supporting DeSantis for 2024 and which is projected to receive support from his campaign, Ron DeSantis can win the general election; I don’t think Donald Trump can.
Last weekend in Pennsylvania, DeSantis highlighted that “winning is the only thing that matters — the victor gets to make policy.” Losers are sent home.
GOP political strategist Constantine Querard has been touring Arizona, a pivotal swing state where Trump-backed candidates failed to win the general election last year, to collect signatures for a petition urging DeSantis to run for president. More than half of the Republicans in the state legislature are clients of Querard’s firm, and he thinks DeSantis will support the victory of down-ballot candidates in 2024.
Querard stated, “We want the conservative who can win at the top of the ticket.
The former president “is dominating in poll after poll — both nationally and statewide — crushing the primary and general fields,” according to Trump campaign spokesperson Steven Cheung.
“We get stronger every day while others limp around looking for relevance and attention,”.
Allies of DeSantis are well aware of Trump’s continued appeal and influence inside the Republican Party. According to a person familiar with the statements, a senior member of Never Back Down has stated that the organization will play a significant role in attracting supporters for DeSantis, in part due to Trump’s obsession with the size of the crowd and the assumption that a front-runner candidate attracts large crowds.
The speaker made reference to a popular scene from Jeb Bush’s dismal 2016 presidential campaign, saying, “If you’re DeSantis, you have to desperately avoid the small room with Jeb Bush asking attendees to please clap.”
On his way back from a rally in Texas last month, Trump misrepresented the size of the DeSantis book tour audiences when he spoke to reporters. He stated that DeSantis’ largest audience in Iowa consisted of 179 persons, although there were actually over a thousand there.
In the 2022 midterm elections, DeSantis triumphed, winning reelection with a clear majority while other Republicans in high-profile candidates who were affiliated with Trump and his movement lost. However, Trump now has a larger advantage over DeSantis in national polls for 2024, and many Republicans think this is because of GOP indignation over his indictment.
Trump stated in a speech last week, following his arraignment, that “the only crime that I have committed is to fearlessly defend our nation from those who seek to destroy it.” He is accused of trying to cover up his relationship with adult film star Stormy Daniels by allegedly altering 34 company paperwork. In order to keep Daniels silent during the 2016 presidential election, according to the prosecution, he concealed payments.
Trump has entered a not-guilty plea and has made the issue the centerpiece of his election campaign.
In the wake of the indictment, the former president has received considerable Republican support: On Thursday, Florida congressman Byron Donalds, a DeSantis ally, declared his support for Trump for president in 2024.
In a statement, Donalds said, “There is only one leader at this time in our nation’s history who can seize the moment and deliver what we need — to get us back on track, provide strength and resolve, and Make America Great Again.” The statement also mentioned the support of Florida representatives Matt Gaetz and Anna Paulina Luna.
Political insiders advise against taking inferences from early polling because DeSantis is not anticipated to officially enter the race until the Florida legislative term concludes in May. Numerous declared and prospective candidates also believe that winning in the early nomination states of Iowa and New Hampshire, where in-person campaigning is essential, will put them on the road to victory.