When Election Day arrives in Florida, Donald Trump will vote for a Republican who may soon find himself plotting a plan.
Months after Trump told The Wall Street Journal that he would support Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ bid for re-election, the former President and his home governor appear to be facing off in the election. hot of 2024. Although neither has announced a presidential campaign, both have taken steps in the last days of the 2022 cycle to align themselves with club players and kings – to lock horns in those things.
“We have a conflict with Trump. It’s very strange,” said a source close to the DeSantis campaign, who has not been known to be outspoken. “It is no secret that things are not right [Trump and DeSantis] now. They don’t hit each other, but we don’t help them and they don’t help us.”
The often-behind-the-scenes rivalry came to public attention this week after DeSantis reported a robocall matching Republican businessman Joe O’Dea, an underdog in Colorado’s Senate race. who vowed earlier this month to “campaign” against Trump if he ascends. third presidential bid. While the Florida governor has endorsed other Republican midterm candidates, none have been as outspoken in their criticism of Trump as O’Dea.
The move did not go unnoticed by the former President, who spent months holding out for help with DeSantis and fueling allegations that he would beat the governor with the Republican primary.
“BIG MISTAKE!” Trump wrote on his Real Community Forum that DeSantis agreed with O’Dea. Three days later, Trump announced plans for a meeting in South Florida with the state’s senior senator, Marco Rubio. DeSantis was not invited, a source told CNN.
The first signs of strain in the relationship between Trump and DeSantis began in the fall during the growing popularity of the Florida Republican and the growing criticism of Trump’s Covid-19 policies as president.
Despite efforts by both men’s partners to ease tensions, their strained relationship has been on the rise for months and now appears to be on the mend as Trump reads a campaign announcement. 2024 and DeSantis barrels toward re-election with potentially historic support from Florida Hispanics.
“Trump should be worried because DeSantis has built an unprecedented base in the Hispanic community,” said one Florida Republican consultant.
DeSantis has also spent the past year reaching out to deep-pocketed Republican donors and laying the groundwork to launch a 2024 campaign next year, according to allies, some of whom said when he wants to rush into what he can. being the first crowded. It’s the obvious steps toward a White House request that angered the former President.
Days after Trump attacked the Florida governor for endorsing the Colorado Senate race, DeSantis committed another cardinal sin in the eyes of the former President when he he also refused to reject the presidential nomination if Trump is the nominee. During Monday’s debate against his Democratic challenger, Charlie Crist, DeSantis refused to commit to a four-year term if re-elected, standing quietly as his opponent repeatedly raised the issue. Privately, Trump’s allies cheered the debate, questioning DeSantis’ ability to withstand a debate against Trump.
“DeSantis has done well for the race he’s pushed,” said one Republican insider who has worked with both men. “It’s a whole different ballgame when he’s on stage next to Donald Trump. Trump has a way of getting under people’s skin, especially on the debate stage.”
Some Republicans have dismissed the claims as premature — even unfair — given DeSantis’ clear advantage in his re-election race and Trump’s debate style.
“I don’t think that debate is irrelevant at all,” said Brian Ballard, a Florida-based Republican consultant with close ties to Trump and DeSantis.
“Donald Trump on the debate stage is the most unique political animal in 100 years. Everyone died for him [in 2016],” Ballard added. “I believe Ron DeSantis can hold his own against anyone, but Donald Trump is his character.”
For months, Trump has worked to establish himself as a clear front-runner in the 2024 primary race while asking his constituents whether DeSantis or others pose a greater threat.
Perhaps in his direct nod to DeSantis, however, the former President posted a video on his Real Community site this week in which former Fox News host Megyn Kelly confidently stated that Trump would emerge victorious. in the contest against DeSantis. Kelly sparred with Trump during his 2016 presidential campaign, both as interview director and primetime commentator, but in a video shared by Trump he suggested that the former President’s base is still on behind him.
“Do you really think hard MAGA is going to dump Trump for DeSantis? They’re not. They love DeSantis, but they don’t think it’s his time,” Kelly says in the clip, adding that “an honest person Trump’s is unmoved. [and] if they are forced to vote, they will vote for Trump. ”
Although some Republicans agree with Kelly, others are looking for new blood, tired of Trump’s endless legal battles and the media’s view of him.
Those close to DeSantis say he is content, for now, to let his electoral performance speak for him. In mid-October, the two political committees behind his re-election bid spent more than 80 billion to try to make a victory that would strengthen his performance and give him a mandate great for his purpose.
But in interviews with donors, DeSantis allies say he is less opinionated these days about the White House proposal than he was six months ago — something Trump allies have warned him about. it, which annoys him even more.
“People are always talking, wondering about the next presidential election and all these things,” DeSantis said at Wednesday’s meeting. “People are worried about who is running the country next because nobody knows who is running the government now.”
On the campaign trail, the Florida governor has been beta testing messages that could set him apart in the presidential primary with or without Trump. He presented his record on the economy, his management of the epidemic and his battles with corporations, Big Tech and school districts for “awakened ideas.” Others say that while he can rely on his accomplishments as governor, he is unlikely to match Trump even as he mimics the former President’s political style — from his gestures to lead to his civil war in the media.
“If I were to advise him, I would tell him to ignore those things. You’re Ron DeSantis 1.0, nothing 2.0,” said Adam Geller, a former Trump campaign researcher and Republican strategist.
But Trump rallying voters in DeSantis County on Nov. 6, two nights before the election, serves as a reminder of how easily he is commanding GOP voters. Among Florida Republican operatives, the timing and location of Trump’s event raised eyebrows. There are even more competitive Senate battlegrounds than Florida, where Rubio is favored to defeat Democratic Rep. Val Demings, and neither party committed significant resources to the state in the closing weeks of the race.
In announcing the visit, Trump also claimed that DeSantis had won the governor’s mansion in “Florida’s historic red wave in the 2018 midterms” and “a slate of approved candidates” for the President of in the past. But Trump also took credit for DeSantis’ re-election, saying he “made the Sunshine State into the MAGA stronghold it is today.”
A person briefed on the matter said the prospect of a Florida meeting was first raised during a phone call between Trump and Rubio following the Florida Senate debate earlier this month. Since the meeting was organized by Trump’s political operation, any attempt to include DeSantis would have gotten out of the way of the former President. But that did not happen, according to several sources familiar with the matter.
“Senator and President Trump have discussed holding a rally in Florida, as he does for Senate races across the country,” said Elizabeth Gregory, a spokeswoman for Rubio’s campaign.
Miami is also home to several active Latino residents who turned right under Trump and have continued to turn red in the two years since he left office. Trump will arrive in town before Republicans are poised for their best showing in Miami-Dade County since Jeb Bush won a second term in 2002.
One Republican consultant who lives in Florida said he doesn’t think that’s a coincidence.
“We’re going to see Florida Republicans win Miami-Dade County, and obviously Trump is trying to go down there to take credit,” the adviser said.
The DeSantis campaign did not request to join the Trump rally once it was announced, a source told CNN.
Like Trump, DeSantis also tried to give greater meaning to Florida’s transition from a purple battlefield to a loyal red state. On Wednesday, he told supporters that a big win on Election Day “will send a strong message, I think, across the country to the governors of our party” to follow his example in their states.
But any tension over who deserves credit for engineering that success won’t matter until November 8, said Tim Williams, a former campaign strategist. Florida GOP.
“Going into the midterms, it’s a train that’s approaching so fast that this Trump-DeSantis fight is not going to get in its way,” Williams said.