Here’s how you know Donald Trump is afraid of Ron DeSantis
The 2022 campaign isn’t even over yet, but Donald Trump is already starting a 2024 fight with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.
It began with DeSantis’ decision to record an automated phone call in support of Joe O’Dea, the Republican nominee for US Senate in Colorado. “America needs strong leadership and desperately,” DeSantis says in the robocall, as first reported by the Washington Examiner. “That’s why I’m endorsing Joe O’Dea for US Senate. Colorado, please vote for Joe O’Dea.”
Trump, quickly blasted DeSantis’ move. “A BIG MISTAKE,” Trump called it on his Truth Social site.
A little history is helpful here.
O’Dea and Trump clashed last week after O’Dea told CNN’s Dana Bash that he did not think Trump should run for the White House again in 2024 and that if the former President did enter the race that he would “actively” campaign against him.
Trump then hit back on Truth Social. “MAGA doesn’t vote for stupid people with big mouths,” wrote Trump. “Good luck Joe!”
O’Dea responded: “President Trump is entitled to his opinion but I’m my own man and I’ll call it like I see it.”
A few things are absolutely true here.
1) DeSantis knows exactly what he is doing. He is fully aware that Trump bashed O’Dea. And that his decision to endorse O’Dea would be seen as a shot across Trump’s political bow.
2) Trump can’t help himself. The former President is simply incapable of letting any perceived slight go. He views DeSantis as questioning his grip on the Republican Party and wants to send the Florida governor a message about who is really in charge here.
To that point, Trump has tried to prove his dominance over DeSantis repeatedly over the past year.
“If I faced him, I’d beat him like I would beat everyone else,” Trump told Yahoo Finance last fall. “I think most people would drop out, I think he would drop out.”
Trump has also claimed that he “made” DeSantis when he endorsed the then-congressman in the 2018 Florida GOP gubernatorial primary. (“Made” may be too strong a word, but there’s no question that Trump’s endorsement of DeSantis played a positive role in his victory that year.)
DeSantis, for his part, has pointedly refused the usual boot-licking required of Republican candidates to win Trump’s endorsement.
Trump’s attempt to diminish DeSantis has not succeeded as much as the former President would like. While Trump generally leads in polling of the potential 2024 Republican primary field, DeSantis regularly takes double-digit support – the only contender other than Trump to do so. One such poll conducted over the summer in New Hampshire – an early voting state – showed Trump and DeSantis at roughly equal levels of support.
And in a new national poll from ABC News and Ipsos, more than 4 in 10 (44%) of Republicans said they want DeSantis to have a “great deal” of influence on the future of the Republican Party. Just 1 in 3 (34%) said the same of Trump.
There’s no question that if the 2024 primaries were held today, Trump would beat DeSantis – and likely beat him handily. But the primaries aren’t today. And it’s also indisputable that DeSantis’ focus on a rejection of so-called “woke” culture has hit a very strong nerve within the GOP.
Trump knows this. And doesn’t like it. All of his boasting about how easily he would beat DeSantis – and his chest-thumping about the O’Dea endorsement – speaks to an underlying insecurity about the established (and growing) strength of the Florida governor.