Former President Trump said in an interview this week that he’s prepared to “handle” a potential challenge from Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination.
Trump, who declared his candidacy for the White House in November, remains the front-runner for the GOP nomination and still enjoys strong support from Republican voters. But recent polls have shown DeSantis leading a hypothetical 2024 presidential primary, and major GOP donors have floated the Florida governor as an alternative candidate, one who at 44 would be a younger, fresher face and who carries no baggage from the contested 2020 presidential election.
Speaking on “The Water Pooler” podcast with host David Brody, Trump took credit for DeSantis’ rising political fortunes, noting that his endorsement in 2018 catapulted DeSantis to the front of the pack in the Republican gubernatorial primary.
“I got him elected, pure and simple,” Trump said, boasting that his rallies for DeSantis helped get out the vote in what turned out to be a narrow victory over Democrat Andrew Gillum.
“So, now I hear he might want to run against me, so we’ll handle that the way I handle things,” Trump said.
So far, Trump has handled DeSantis by launching unprovoked attacks, labeling him “Ron DeSanctimonious,” and accusing the governor of disloyalty because he refuses to say he won’t run for president against Trump.
In November, after DeSantis won re-election in a 19-point landslide while many other GOP candidates struggled, Trump slammed him as an “average REPUBLICAN Governor with great Public Relations,” and said DeSantis came to him in “desperate shape” in 2017 asking for his endorsement to win the gubernatorial primary.
DeSantis has not responded to Trump directly, nor has he given any public indication that he intends to run for president.
“One of the things I’ve learned in this job is when you’re leading, when you’re getting things done, you take incoming fire. That’s just the nature of it,” DeSantis told reporters in November, answering a question about Trump’s attacks. “I roll out of bed in the morning and I have corporate media outlets that have a spasm just because I’m getting up in the morning, and it’s just constantly attacking.”
“I think what you learn is all of that is just noise, and really 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,” he added. “At the end of the day I would just tell people to go check out the scoreboard from last Tuesday night.”
But many political observers and commentators thought that the governor’s second inaugural address on Jan. 3, during which DeSantis called Florida the “promised land of sanity” and the place where “woke goes to die,” sounded like a presidential campaign speech.
If DeSantis decides to launch a 2024 campaign, don’t expect an announcement anytime soon. A source in the governor’s wider political circle told Fox News earlier this month that any announcement wouldn’t happen until after Florida’s legislative session ends in May.
Fox News’ Anders Hagstrom, Joe Silverstein and Paul Steinhauser contributed to this report.