Former President Donald Trump said Friday that an alliance with his likely primary challenger Gov. Ron DeSantis is “very unlikely.”
Trump, who has launched a barrage of attacks on the Florida governor before he has even entered the 2024 Republican presidential primary, said in an interview he has never considered asking DeSantis to be his 2024 running mate.
“No, I think that would be a very unlikely alliance,” Trump told Newsmax.
“We have a lot of great people in the Republican Party. I’ve never thought of it; but you know some people every once in a while mention it, but that’s about it,” he said.
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DeSantis’ popularity with Republicans has skyrocketed since he became Florida’s governor in 2018, thanks to his rejection of coronavirus pandemic restrictions, proactive opposition to critical race theory and sex and gender ideology in schools, and combative stance towards corporations and media figures who have criticized his agenda. Hypothetical 2024 matchups name Trump and DeSantis as the top two choices among GOP primary voters, and Trump views DeSantis as his most serious threat to re-nomination.
Trump also believes that his endorsement in 2018 made DeSantis’ political career, and he feels betrayed by DeSantis, who is not supporting Trump’s third campaign for the presidency and appears to have his own White House ambitions.
In his interview with Newsmax, Trump took credit for propelling DeSantis from relative obscurity as a member of Congress to the Republican nominee for governor in Florida and ultimately for getting DeSantis elected over Democratic Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum.
“I appointed him,” Trump said. “He was failing badly in the polls. He was out of politics. He was going to be out of politics, and I endorsed him, and he went from a very small number to a very high number. I had rallies for Ron, and we got him in. Then a couple of years later, they said, ‘Would you run against the president for president?’ He said, ‘I have no comment.’ I said, ‘That’s not supposed to happen.'”
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DeSantis had mostly ignored Trump’s attacks until this week, when he commented on the possible indictment Trump faces from Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg for alleged hush money payments made to porn star Stormy Daniels in 2016 — meant to keep her quiet about a purported sexual encounter they had years ago. Trump has denied the affair and any wrongdoing in connection with payments to Daniels.
Asked about the looming Trump indictment, DeSantis ripped Bragg as a politically-motivated prosecutor, but also said, “I don’t know what goes into paying hush money to a porn star to secure silence over some type of alleged affair. I can’t speak to that.”
This answer sent Trump into a rage. In a flurry of posts on Truth Social, Trump slammed DeSantis as ungrateful, disloyal and an “average governor.”
However, DeSantis stood by his comments in an interview with British media host Piers Morgan. Clips and quotes from the interview, which ran in its entirety Thursday on Fox Nation, made headlines all week.
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He spotlighted his overwhelming 19-point re-election victory last year — in contrast to Trump’s defeat in the 2020 presidential election — and highlighted his “no nonsense” governing style in comparison to the tumult that characterized the Trump White House years. DeSantis criticized the former president for not firing federal health official Dr. Anthony Fauci, and mocked the derogatory nicknames Trump has repeatedly called the governor.
Trump maintains that even if DeSantis decides to run for president, he can’t win. He likens the governor’s record to establishment Republican figures like former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush or former House Speaker Paul Ryan, pointing out that DeSantis’ voting record in Congress includes voting to raise the retirement age to 70 in 2013.
“If you look at his record, he can’t win because he voted against Social Security; he voted against everything,” Trump told Newsmax. “He voted against things that are so important. Medicare. He voted against Medicare. He wanted to raise the age substantially of people getting Social Security.”
“The things he’s voted against are devastating, because people don’t know this about Ron: Ron was a disciple of Paul Ryan. And Paul Ryan was a loser. You know that. He was a loser in many ways,” Trump added.
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It’s an accusation that doesn’t match the record. DeSantis was a founding member of the House Freedom Caucus, which was a thorn in Speaker Ryan’s side, as well as House Speaker John Boehner before him. In fact, Trump sided with Ryan against the Freedom Caucus in 2017, as hard line conservatives pushed for a full repeal of the Affordable Care Act, a.k.a. Obamacare, and GOP leaders wanted a more partial repeal.
But what Trump’s attacks may lack in accuracy they make up for in ferocity. His barrage has hit DeSantis from the left and right on education, COVID, and more.
Any decision DeSantis makes about running for president won’t come until after the Florida legislature wraps up its current session in May. Even so, Trump indicated the attacks will keep coming.
“I just assume he’s running; and, therefore, I attack,” Trump said. “But I am not looking to attack Republicans.”
Fox News’ Paul Steinhauser contributed to this report.
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