Jan 23, 2024 - Politics & Policy

DeSantis unloads on Trump right after endorsing him

Photo: Brandon Bell/Getty Images

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis may have endorsed former President Trump, but his rhetoric since dropping out of the GOP presidential race on Sunday suggests their bitter rivalry is far from over.

Why it matters: Most Republicans who have gone through phases of Trump skepticism or opposition — including candidates for president this cycle — ultimately end up "kissing the ring," as DeSantis himself described it.

Driving the news: Just one day after dropping out of the race, DeSantis publicly vowed to veto a Republican proposal to authorize the use of Florida's tax dollars to pay Trump's legal bills.

  • On Tuesday, with the New Hampshire primary set to determine whether Trump will romp to the nomination, DeSantis appeared on "The Steve Deace Show" to sound the alarm about the man he just endorsed.
  • The Florida governor claimed that after months of boosting Trump as a "juggernaut" who will defeat President Biden, the "corporate media" has "flipped" to warning of the former president's vulnerabilities.
Screenshot via X

What they're saying: "I think that was part of the reason the turnout was low [in Iowa], because people had been told it's a fait accompli," DeSantis said. "Trump's up so much in the polls, he's got the nomination."

  • "It's a huge warning sign for Republicans nationally, based on what we saw in Iowa," he continued, citing lifelong conservatives he spoke to who said they couldn't bring themselves to vote for Trump again.
  • "So he's got to figure out a way to solve that. I think there's an enthusiasm problem overall."

Regarding New Hampshire, DeSantis cast doubt on some experts' predictions that there would be "record turnout."

  • "To the extent that turnout's up, it's probably going to be up amongst the more liberal voters who are coming out," DeSantis suggested.
  • He went on to hammer Trump for his handling of COVID and lamented that "no one else wanted to talk about" the pandemic during the campaign.
  • "This was one of the biggest events in our life. And yet we had one candidate who was the president at the start of it, and when he'd get interviewed, no one would even ask him questions about it!"

The intrigue: DeSantis saved fire for his former Republican colleagues in Congress, blasting them for what he called "failure theater."

  • "I would always ask audiences, 'Republicans took the House in 2022. Have you noticed a difference in anything that's happening?' And I never had anyone raise their hand and say things are better as a result," he said.
  • The vast majority of Republicans in Congress have endorsed Trump, with more expected to follow suit after New Hampshire.

What to watch: DeSantis, who is only 45 and will remain governor of Florida until 2026, was asked whether he would run again for president in 2028.

  • "We'll see what kind — if we have a country left by 2028," he quipped.
  • "I viewed '24 as really a hinge point in American history, and if we don't get it right, I don't know what it's going to look like in the future."
Go deeper