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- Trump told reporters that it would be disloyal for DeSantis to run for president in 2024.
- Trump said he regretted endorsing DeSantis in 2018, noting his backing helped him win.
- Trump made the remarks to reporters aboard his plane, where he was headed to Iowa to campaign.
Former President Donald Trump escalated his attacks against Ron DeSantis on Monday, saying it was “strange” that the Florida governor appeared to be mounting a challenge against him for the 2024 Republican nomination for the White House.
Speaking to a group of reporters aboard his plane Monday, Trump conceded that DeSantis was “probably” his biggest rival, and said he regretted endorsing him for governor in 2018.
“I don’t think it’s nice,” he said, according to CBS News. “I’m a very loyal person. So I don’t understand disloyalty. I really don’t. But you see it. You do see disloyalty in politics.”
Trump, who was headed to a campaign rally in Iowa, also denied New York Times reporting that he had nicknamed DeSantis “Meatball Ron” — likely in reference to the governor’s weight, stature, and Italian heritage — dismissing it as “too crude,” according to Politico.
DeSantis hasn’t formally announced he’s running for president but is widely expected to launch a bid after the Florida lawmaking session ends in May. Such a timeline would allow him to sign more measures into law and to have a broader platform to run on.
Trump, since the midterms, has been openly hitting DeSantis, who in turn has taunted the ex-president with passive-aggressive appearances and jabs. This past weekend DeSantis visited Davenport, Iowa — the same blue-collar town where Trump was heading on Monday — and appeared to indirectly taunt Trump at a time when news reports said an indictment was imminent.
“If you talk to Floridians, there’s no drama in our administration, there’s no palace intrigue, they basically just sit back and say, ‘OK, what’s the governor going to do next?'” DeSantis said. “And in the process, we beat the left day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year.”
DeSantis’ political team declined to comment on Trump’s latest remarks.
Trump and DeSantis have roughly the same favorability among Iowans, according to a Des Moines Register/Mediacom Iowa Poll released Friday.
“You never know what happens,” Trump said of DeSantis’ standing in the polls, according to CBS. “It could change. I think we’re not going to have much of a challenge.”
Visits to Iowa are considered for aspiring presidential candidates because the state holds the first-in-the-nation caucus for Republicans. DeSantis often dodged questions about his presidential aspirations when he was running for reelection last year, a tactic that irked Trump.
Trump’s backing in 2018 gave DeSantis a significant boost. DeSantis was then a little-known congressman and Trump would go on to host numerous rallies for him. DeSantis, in turn, ran a Trump-centric campaign that included a viral ad where he was teaching his children about Trumpism.
In his book “The Courage to Be Free,” DeSantis discloses little about the endorsement conversation with Trump. He credits Trump for raising his name recognition but then writes that a debate performance got him the GOP nomination against his better-known challenger, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putman.
He also suggested that Trump’s name was a liability in the general election. DeSantis narrowly won against Andrew Gillum, Tallahassee’s mayor who was a rising national star in his party.
Trump didn’t endorse or hold rallies for DeSantis’ 2022 reelection bid, and instead, Trump rolled out his derisive “Ron DeSanctimonious” nickname just before Election Day — yet the governor went on to win by 19 points.