The long-simmering feud between former President Trump and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has reached new heights as the frontrunners battle it out in the fledgling Republican presidential primary.
Tensions between the two have been prominent in recent days as they jab each other at campaign events more than 1,000 miles apart. When Mr. DeSantis attacked Mr. Trump at the White House, claiming it would take eight years to get this job done, the former president bluntly responded, “Who the hell wants to wait eight years?”
“Every time I hear him say eight years, I frown because if it takes eight years to turn this around, I don’t want him. No,” Trump said at a stop in Urbandale, Iowa.
Asked about Trump’s remarks later in the day, DeSantis didn’t hold back.
“Why didn’t he do it in the first four years?” he joked.
The exchange was just an indication of how bitterly the rivalry between the once political allies had grown in the early days of Mr. DeSantis’ presidential campaign.
Florida’s governor still trails Trump by a wide margin in most polls, but the former president has attacked DeSantis for months and is ready to fight even before he officially enters the race. has been clarified.
DeSantis, meanwhile, told reporters last week that he would “counter-punch” if attacked, after a campaign kick-off event, making it clear that he would not sit back and accept the oncoming attack.
“I’m going to fight back,” DeSantis said. “I’m going to focus and attack Biden, but I think he should do the same. He gives Biden a free pass.”
So far, the Republican presidential nominees have shown little enthusiasm from either Trump or DeSantis, but DeSantis still holds a large lead over other supporters. On a Des Moines-area radio show, President Trump made clear why he was attacking DeSantis head-on.
“This is some kind of war, and generally speaking, what you’re doing is going to be the person who’s number two, not the person who’s number eight or number nine,” Trump told radio host Simon Conway. It’s about chasing the .
The conflict between Mr. Trump and Mr. DeSantis goes beyond just careless jabs by candidates. When President Trump was campaigning in Urbandale last week, pro-DeSantis super PAC Never Back Down parked a “Team DeSantis” bus outside the former president’s event.
At the same time, the online exchanges between the two candidates’ allies and staff have become increasingly intense.
In one exchange, Trump campaign spokesman Stephen Zhang posted a photo of the Never Back Down bus, claiming it had “broken down” on the side of the road. This prompted a response from DeSantis’s rapid response chief, who posted a photo of Chan standing outside the bus and wished he could “hitch hike.”
Republicans said a feud between Trump and DeSantis was inevitable. While the former president has a history of running scorched-earth tactics, Mr. DeSantis bases his political ambitions on a reputation for standing up to all kinds of criticism.
But what caught some in the party off guard was how quickly the fight escalated.
A Republican strategist backing DeSantis’s presidential run said: “Obviously Trump never intended to let DeSantis down, but I would wait a while for him to start fighting back. I expected it,” he said. “Sooner or later it will happen, but I think the DeSantis people have come to the conclusion that the longer you wait, the harder it will be.”
Others welcomed the battle, arguing that it was time for the Republican Party and its various factions to start washing out their differences, especially in a relatively lackluster midterm election cycle that favored many Republicans. especially after losing the election in a tough political environment.
“I’ll just say this, I don’t think it’s a bad thing for a party to put up a good, strong fight in the primary,” said a longtime Republican who now sits on the conservative South Carolina Policy Council. Dallas Woodhouse, who heads the company, said. “I think the Republican Party needs it now.”
But the feud could affect both candidates, as well as the Republican effort to retake the White House in 2024, increasing the risk of either coming out of the primary bruised and battered. there is
“Obviously, it was a risk to get in the ring with Trump in the first place,” said Republican strategist Ford O’Connell. “I think if this turns out to be too bloody, it could ruin both possibilities.”
Copyright 2023 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. You may not publish, broadcast, rewrite or redistribute this material.