Trump vs DeSantis
Former President Donald Trump has been privately fuming about Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) for months, irked that DeSantis hasn't said "the magic words," that he won't run for president in 2024 if Trump does, The New York Times reports. "That long-stewing resentment burst into public view recently in a dispute over a seemingly unrelated topic: COVID policies."
Trump hit first, slamming "gutless" politicians won't say if they got boosted against COVID-19, widely seen as a jab at DeSantis. Days later, DeSantis went on the popular conservative podcast Ruthless and urged listeners not to "fall for the bait" from "the media" about him and Trump feuding. But moments later he told the podcast hosts he regretted not being more vocal in opposing COVID-19 restrictions when Trump was president.
Trump tells visitors DeSantis wouldn't be governor without his endorsement, and thus owes him deference like other 2024 hopefuls, Times reporter Jonathan Martin told CNN on Monday. DeSantis, second to Trump in 2024 GOP polling, disagrees.
Trump and his team are wary of elevating DeSantis further by singling him out, and "Trump advisers say they see a hidden hand at play: that of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.)," NBC News reports. The Ruthless podcast, they note, is co-hosted by longtime McConnell adviser John Holmes.
"Josh is great," a top Trump adviser told NBC News. "But he's a wholly owned subsidiary of McConnell World. And there's no way you can tell me that this was all a coincidence." Times reporter Maggie Haberman said she "heard some of the complaining about McConnell as a hidden hand in this," but "DeSantis' whole brand is tell-it-like-it-is, it's not like someone is getting him to do something he didn't want to."
A former Trump adviser told NBC News Trump's hard feelings are real, for a simple reason: "I don't think he likes people being more popular than him." GOP donor Dan Eberhart described DeSantis as "Trump but a little smarter, more disciplined and brusque without being too brusque." Trump insists he isn't worried, saying "DeSantis has no personal charisma and has a dull personality," a source tells Axios.
Still, Trump's couched defense of COVID-19 vaccines "has put him uncharacteristically out of step with the hard-line elements of his party's base and provided an opening for a rival" like DeSantis, the Times reports. Trump supporter-turned-critic Ann Coulter had some fun with Trump's feuding.
"Trump is done," Coulter told the Times. "You guys should stop obsessing over him."