Jan 29, 2023 - Politics & Policy

Trump criticizes “disloyal” DeSantis’ COVID record

Donald Trump addresses the crowd

Donald Trump addresses the crowd during a 2024 election campaign event in Columbia, S.C., on Jan. 28. Photo: Logan Cyrus/AFP via Getty Images

Former President Trump took aim at Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) on the campaign trail this weekend, criticizing DeSantis for his management of the COVID-19 pandemic and branding him "disloyal."

Driving the news: Trump faced a wave of blame in the wake of the GOP's performance in 2022 midterm elections, with some post-election polls showing DeSantis with an edge over the former president as a potential 2024 GOP nominee.

  • However, three national polls released this month showed Trump clawing back momentum from DeSantis in a hypothetical 2024 Republican presidential primary.

The big picture: As Trump hit his first campaign stops on Saturday, he criticized what he characterized as DeSantis' shifting positions on COVID-19 vaccines and closures during the pandemic.

  • DeSantis' hands-off approach to the pandemic — reopening schools for in-person learning earlier than other states, fighting vaccine mandates and refusing to reimpose restrictions during case spikes — was a key to developing his political brand, Axios' Caitlin Owens writes.
  • “There are Republican governors that did not close their states,” Trump said aboard his plane, CNN reports. “Florida was closed for a long period of time.”
  • Trump added that DeSantis had "changed his tune a lot" with regards to COVID-19 vaccines, accusing the Florida governor and his team of "trying to rewrite history," per CNN.
  • DeSantis‘ office did not immediately return Axios’ request for comment.

Trump dismissed polls that showed DeSantis with a leading edge and took credit for elevating his career, Politico reported.

  • "He won’t be leading, I got him elected," Trump said.
  • “So when I hear he might run, I consider that very disloyal,” Trump added, CNN reported.
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