Trump unloads on DeSantis after midterms
Former President Trump on Thursday released a long statement deriding his relationship with Gov. Ron DeSantis, after the Florida Republican easily held onto his position during a midterm election that delivered a series of losses for Trump-endorsed candidates in pivotal races.
Why it matters: The underperformance of Trump-backed candidates in the midterms — set against DeSantis' dominant re-election in Florida — has triggered an internal reckoning within the GOP over who is best positioned to lead the party into 2024.
Details: The former president branded his potential 2024 rival as an "average" Republican who owes his political success to Trump's endorsement in the 2018 governor's race. He also lashed out at DeSantis' responses to questions about his own 2024 ambitions.
- "The Fake News asks him if he’s going to run if President Trump runs, and he says, 'I’m only focused on the Governor’s race, I’m not looking into the future,'" Trump said in the statement. "Well, in terms of loyalty and class, that’s really not the right answer."
Between the lines: Trump has jabbed at DeSantis a few times as he's grown in popularity, but this is the clearest sign yet that the former president is prepared to declare war against any Republican seeking to usurp him — even at the cost of destroying the party.
The big picture: Trump allies have considered distancing themselves from him and his presumptive 2024 presidential campaign after many of his endorsed candidates underachieved during the midterms, Axios' Jonathan Swan writes.
- It's becoming more likely that Trump will face a large lineup of competitors in the 2024 primaries.
- DeSantis' 20-point win over Democrat Charlie Crist was a boon for his national profile.
What he's saying: "Ron came to me in desperate shape in 2017—he was politically dead, losing in a landslide ..." Trump said in the statement. "Ron had low approval, bad polls, and no money, but he said that if I would Endorse him, he could win."
- "When I Endorsed him, it was as though, to use a bad term, a nuclear weapon went off," he continued. "I also fixed his campaign, which had completely fallen apart."
- "And now, Ron DeSanctimonious is playing games!" Trump said.
- "This is just like 2015 and 2016, a Media Assault (Collusion!), when Fox News fought me to the end until I won, and then they couldn’t have been nicer or more supportive."
Flashback: Trump has taken shots at DeSantis multiple times in the past week, including using the nickname Ron "DeSanctimonious" at a Pennsylvania rally over the weekend.
- DeSantis, in turn, has remained silent and delivered an electoral landslide that outmatched Trump's performance in 2016 and 2020 — a devastating response, Axios' Zachary Basu reports.