[guest post by Dana]
Two peas in a pod who hold no affection for one another:
While DeSantis and the former president are already locked in a 2024 cold war, the smackdown has been unfolding off camera. According to a former DeSantis congressional staffer, DeSantis trashes Trump in private.
“He calls him a TV personality and a moron who has no business running for president,” the former staffer said. DeSantis tells donors that, if he takes on Trump, he would launch a full frontal attack on his record and competence, according to a GOP source briefed on the conversations. “DeSantis says the only way to beat Trump is to attack him head-on. ”
Trump, meanwhile, vents about DeSantis constantly, according to people who speak with him. Trump’s animus is fueled by his belief that he put DeSantis in the governor’s mansion. In conversations, Trump reminds people that then congressman DeSantis was losing by double digits during the 2018 gubernatorial primary until Trump backed him. Sources said it galls Trump that DeSantis hasn’t acknowledged the boost Trump provided, aside from a cursory acknowledgement in his victory speech.
Trump tells people, ‘I made Ron,’” a prominent Republican told Vanity Fair. “Trump says that about a lot of people. But in this case it’s actually true.”
Clearly, Trump really doesn’t think much of the man he claims to have “made”:
The 45th president called the Florida governor “fat,” “phony,” and “whiny” when Haberman asked about him during a meeting late this summer at the Trump National Golf Club Bedminster in New Jersey. It is not clear if Trump offers additional disparaging remarks about DeSantis that are documented in the book and not the Atlantic article.
Trump’s comments were made around the same time as news emerged that DeSantis had raised more money since January of last year than himself or President Joe Biden. News of DeSantis’s impressive haul was confirmed by Open Secrets, which analyzed the fundraising efforts of the top 20 presidential contenders. DeSantis raised $177.4 million for his reelection campaign as of Sept. 9, a national record for gubernatorial campaigns.
And while it’s certainly early days, polling shows DeSantis leading Trump with Florida Republicans:
In addition to fundraising, DeSantis also leads the former president by an impressive 8 points in a USA Today/Suffolk University poll asking how Florida Republican registered voters would vote in a hypothetical primary between the two. That poll is far from an outlier, with numerous others in the last year having similar results.
Meanwhile, as Trump faces six lawsuits(!), DeSantis faces his own legal challenges over flying migrants to Martha’s Vineyard. His stunt, however, raised his national profile in a positive way with fellow Republicans:
DeSantis has reaped political benefits, grabbing center stage on an issue that once helped propel Donald Trump to the White House and putting Democrats on defense over the nation’s chaotic and overstressed immigration system. Republican leaders have embraced his tactics and begun fundraising off pledges to fly migrants to other blue-state enclaves.
At this point, barring a catastrophe, one of these blustery yahoos will very likely become the Republican nominee. We already know Trump’s schtick, and we’ve seen DeSantis in action in Florida. The question is, which of these two can out-populist the other and capture the MAGA base while offering specific policies that will entice non-MAGA voters?
On a side note, can you imagine these two going after each other on a debate stage? DeSantis is brash, polished, knows policy and politics, and would win hands down on that alone. Trump is not polished and doesn’t know a lot about policy, talks over challengers, deflects and dismisses, and yet he is able to suck the air out of the room with his bellicosity, an unwavering belief in himself, and an incredible lack of self-awareness. Voters will have an interesting time of it if they both run for the presidency.