Trump-DeSantis 2024 rivalry leaks to public ahead of midseason

() — Come Election Day in Florida, Donald Trump will be voting for a Republican whose political demise he may soon be plotting.

months after Trump told The Wall Street Journal who would support Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’ re-election bid, it seems increasingly likely that the former president and the governor of his home state will clash in a heated 2024 presidential primary. While neither has formally announced a presidential campaign , both have taken steps in the last days of the 2022 cycle to establish themselves as team players and people of great influence, facing each other in those purposes.

“We have a break with Trump. Big surprise,” said a source close to the DeSantis campaign, who was granted anonymity to speak candidly. “It is no secret that things are frozen between [Trump y DeSantis] right now. They’re not hitting each other, but we’re not helping them and they’re not helping us.”

A rivalry that had existed mostly behind the scenes exploded into public view this week after DeSantis recorded a robocall endorsing Republican businessman Joe O’Dea, an underdog in the Colorado Senate race who promised earlier this month to “actively campaign” against Trump if he runs a third presidential bid. While Florida’s governor has endorsed other Republican midterm candidates, none have been as outspokenly critical of Trump as O’Dea.

The move was not lost on the former president, who has spent months complaining to aides about DeSantis and amplifying claims that he would easily beat the governor in a Republican primary.

“BIG MISTAKE!” Trump wrote on his Truth Social platform about DeSantis endorsing O’Dea. Three days later, Trump announced plans for a rally in South Florida with the state’s senior senator, Marco Rubio. DeSantis was not invited, a source told .

The first signs of strain in Trump’s relationship with DeSantis began last fall amid the Florida Republican’s growing popularity and thinly veiled criticism of Trump’s COVID-19 policies as president.

Despite efforts by both men’s allies to defuse tensions, their strained relationship has persisted for months and now appears to be escalating as Trump readies a post-2024 midterm campaign ad and DeSantis heads toward the election. re-election with potentially historic support from Florida Hispanics.

“Trump has to be concerned because DeSantis has built an unprecedented base in the Hispanic community,” said a Florida-based Republican consultant.

DeSantis has also spent the past year making inroads with wealthy Republican donors and laying the groundwork for a possible 2024 campaign launch next year, according to allies, some of whom said he doesn’t want to rush his potential entry into what is likely to be a crowded primary. It is those overt steps toward a White House bid that have rankled the former president most.

Days after Trump criticized the Florida governor for endorsing the Colorado Senate race, DeSantis committed another cardinal sin in the eyes of the former president when he once again refused to rule out a presidential bid if Trump is a candidate. During a debate against his Democratic opponent, Charlie Crist, DeSantis refused to commit to serving a four-year term if he is re-elected, remaining silent as his opponent repeatedly raised the issue. Privately, Trump allies gloated over the debate and questioned DeSantis’s ability to withstand a debate against Trump.

“DeSantis did well in a race that he is crushing,” said a Republican agent who has worked with both men. “It’s a whole different ball game when he’s on a stage with Donald Trump. Trump has a very effective way of getting under people’s skin, especially on the debate stage.”

Other Republicans dismissed such conclusions as premature — even unfair — given DeSantis’ clear lead in his re-election race and Trump’s inimitable debate style.

“I don’t think that debate mattered at all,” said Brian Ballard, a Florida-based Republican consultant who has close ties to both Trump and DeSantis.

“Donald Trump on the debate stage is the most unique political animal in 100 years. They were all decimated by him [en 2016]Ballard added. “I think Ron DeSantis can hold his own against anyone, but Donald Trump is his own character.”

“They don’t think it’s their turn”

For months, Trump has worked to become the automatic favorite in a disputed 2024 primary while asking his own pollsters to identify whether DeSantis or others pose a serious threat.

In perhaps his most direct attack on DeSantis yet, the former president reposted a video on his Truth Social site this week in which former Fox News host Megyn Kelly confidently predicted that Trump would emerge on top in a race. against DeSantis. Kelly repeatedly sparred with Trump during his 2016 presidential campaign, both as a debate moderator and as a prime-time commentator, but in the video shared by Trump, she suggested that the former president’s base remains firmly behind him.

“Do you really think the hardcore MAGA is going to ditch Trump for DeSantis? They are not. They like DeSantis, but they don’t think it’s his turn,” Kelly says in the clip, adding that “Trump’s loyal stalwarts are unwavering. [y] if they are forced to choose, they will choose Trump.”

While some Republicans agree with Kelly, others are looking for new blood, exhausted by Trump’s endless legal battles and the media spectacle that surrounds him.

Those close to DeSantis say he is content, for now, to let his electoral performance do the talking. As of mid-October, two political committees behind his re-election effort had spent more than $80 million trying to engineer a landslide victory that would further bolster his resume and deliver an overwhelming mandate for his agenda.

But in conversations with donors, DeSantis allies say he is far less dismissive these days when asked about a White House bid than he was six months ago, something Trump allies have brought to his attention, which irritates even more.

“People are always talking, wondering about the presidential election in the future and all that,” DeSantis said at a rally Wednesday. “People are worried about who is going to run the country next because no one knows who the hell is running the government now.”

On the campaign trail, the Florida governor has been testing messages that could set him apart in a presidential primary with or without Trump as a contender. He has touted his record on the economy, his handling of the pandemic and his battles with corporations, Big Tech and school districts over “wake-up ideology.” Some say the more he can lean on his accomplishments as governor, the less likely he is to draw comparisons to Trump even as he mimics elements of the former president’s political style, from his hand gestures to his public war on the media.

“If I were advising you, I would tell you to ignore those things. You are Ron DeSantis 1.0, not nothing 2.0,” said Adam Geller, a former Trump campaign pollster and Republican strategist.

Trump preemptive rally in South Florida

But with Trump rallying voters in the DeSantis state on Nov. 6, two nights before the election, it serves as a reminder of how easily he still dominates Republican voters. Among Florida Republican operatives, the timing and location of Trump’s event have drawn attention. There are considerably more competitive Senate battlegrounds than Florida, where Rubio is the favorite to defeat Democratic Rep. Val Demings, and neither party has committed significant resources to the state in the closing weeks of the race.

Trump is the most popular Republican, according to poll 0:49

In announcing the visit, Trump once again took credit for DeSantis winning the governor’s mansion via “a historic red wave for Florida in the 2018 midterms” with the former president’s “endorsed list of candidates” on the list. electoral ticket. But Trump also preemptively hijacked DeSantis’ re-election, saying he had “shaped the Sunshine State into the MAGA stronghold it is today.”

A person briefed on the matter said the possibility of a Florida rally was first raised during a phone call between Trump and Rubio following the debate in the Florida Senate earlier this month. Since the rally is being organized by Trump’s political operation, any effort to involve DeSantis would likely come from within the former president’s orbit. But that didn’t happen, according to multiple sources familiar with the matter.

“The senator and President Trump discussed holding a rally in Florida, as he is doing for Senate races across the country,” said Elizabeth Gregory, a spokeswoman for Rubio’s campaign.

Miami is also home to several vibrant Latino communities that shifted to the right under Trump and have continued to trend red in the two years since he left office. Trump will land in the city just before Republicans are set to have their best election result in Miami-Dade County since Jeb Bush won a second term in 2002.

A Florida-based Republican consultant said he doesn’t think it’s a coincidence.

“We’re probably going to see Florida Republicans win Miami-Dade County, and it’s pretty clear that Trump is trying to get there to take credit,” the consultant said.

The DeSantis campaign did not ask to join Trump’s rally program once it was announced, a source told .

Like Trump, DeSantis has also sought to attach greater significance to Florida’s transformational shift from a purple battleground to a dependable red state. On Wednesday, he told supporters that a big victory on Election Day “will send a strong message, I think, to our own party governors across the country” to follow his example in their states.

But any tension over who deserves credit for engineering that success is unlikely to matter until after Nov. 8, said Tim Williams, a former Florida GOP campaign strategist.

“As far as midterms go, that’s a train that’s approaching so fast that this feud between Trump and DeSantis is not going to get in the way,” Williams said.

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